Air France - Biography
Air France is a Swedish electronic duo that emerged in the late 2000s with a sound that’s been described as anything from “post-rave bliss” to many different offshoots of disco, ranging from psychedelic neo disco to seaside disco to Balearic disco. The duo—Joel Karlsson and Henrik Markstedt—took form in Gothenburg, a city in the western part of Sweden that has produced the likes of Jens Lekman and The Tough Alliance. It was the latter group’s spin-off label, Sincerely Yours, that Air France put out a pair of critically lauded EPs, 2006’s On Trade Winds and 2008’s, No Way Down. On each of the EPs, Air France crafted groove-oriented pop songs as their soundscape, songs that painted a brightly hued picture of idyllic splendor and euphoria.
Having met in high school as “anarchists” who “took a shine to one another,” Karlsson and Markstedt shared a love for British act, Saint Etienne, based on the indie dance band’s sense of place and architecture and other musically transcendent elements. The duo has said that they got into music as a way to escape, not just for them, but for the audience they hoped to reach, and that they wanted to invert the indoors feel of electronic music to something altogether alfresco.
The group gained notoriety in late 2006 upon releasing their littoral EP, On Trade Winds, which featured the tropical excursion, “Beach Party.” Using island rhythms that were largely influenced by the Balearic beat—a beach rave electronic dance music that took wind in the mid-1980s, fashioned after the sound of Ibiza—Air France broadening the palette by embracing pop music at its roots. All four tracks on the EP—particularly the aforementioned track and “Karibien”—sustain as sunset techno, and all are centered on uplift. The end track, “Never Content,” transports the feeling of vacationing otherness and of worldly surrender, with finger snaps and piano.
Air France returned in 2008 with their second and more heralded EP, No Way Down (Sincerely Yours). Picking up where the previous release left off, the duo again use a variety of swept-away elements (harp, congas, woodwinds) to accompany pushing grooves and playful insinuations (children’s voices, whispered reassurances, cheers) for all 23 minutes of this release. Again, the Balearic house traditions are strong and each song is richly orchestrated via sampling and breezy nature sounds. The EP garnered positive reviews both in Europe and in North America, and was especially lauded for achieving something of its conceptual ambition.
Air France has said that they choose the EP format because they don’t like to give a sense of fulfillment or closure with what they’re trying to do. In 2012 the band broke up.