Air’s Moon Safari Atmos Mix, reviewed

How good is the spatial audio mix on blu-ray?

Jonathan Cornell on the new 25th Anniversary Dolby Atmos mix

Moon Safari was French electronic duo Air’s debut studio album, originally released in January 1998 through Virgin Records. The album was a massive success, achieving a double-platinum certification from the RIAA in the UK and spawning the top-20 hit single ‘Sexy Boy’. Though core members Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoît Dunckel handle most of the instrumentation heard on the album, Moon Safari also features contributions from several outside musicians including American singer/songwriter Beth Hirsch and British composer David Whitaker.

Even though Air were a popular act signed to a major label in the early-2000s (when the industry-at-large began to heavily invest in 5.1 surround sound music), surprisingly neither Moon Safari nor its successors – 2000’s The Virgin Suicides and 2001’s 10,000 Hz Legend – received multichannel releases in Super Audio CD or DVD-Audio format.

The band would go on to finally embrace immersive audio in 2021, when a new Dolby Atmos mix of 10,000 Hz Legend was commissioned for the 20th anniversary 2CD+Blu-Ray reissue from Warner/Rhino. Air’s layered electronic soundscapes lend themselves perfectly to the format, and the mixing team of Bruce Keen (who engineered the original album back in 2001) and Gilas Lointer succeeded in delivering a demonstration-worthy immersive interpretation of the album.

To belatedly celebrate Moon Safari’s 25th anniversary, Keen and Lointer have once again been tasked with creating a Dolby Atmos mix from the original multitrack recordings. Though the Atmos mix has been available to stream since November 2023, the lossless Dolby TrueHD/Atmos audio presentation on the Blu-Ray disc is undoubtedly the best way for audiophiles to experience the album. Some may bemoan the lack of a dedicated DTS-HD 5.1 audio option (as was included on the 10,000 Hz Legend Blu-Ray), but I found that the Atmos mix translates very well to a traditional six-channel home theater setup.

As one might expect given the experimental nature of this music, the new Dolby Atmos mix makes creative use of all speakers to fully immerse the listener. Though main elements such as the rhythm section, lead vocals, and Dunckel’s Rhodes electric piano (the lead ‘voice’ on many of the instrumental tracks) typically appear assigned to the front stage, additional layers like the like backing vocals, synthesizers, percussion, and Whitaker’s gorgeous string arrangements often appear isolated in the surround or height channels.

The 25th anniversary edition features two CDs and a blu-ray audio with the Atmos Mix (click image to enlarge)

‘La Femme D’Argent’ opens with percussion traveling from rear-to-front as it fades in, giving way to the electric piano percolating largely from the front left speaker. A second synthesizer part soon appears centered in the rear speakers, hovering directly behind the listener’s head.

Bass synth fills up the side surrounds for ‘Sexy Boy‘, with the cymbal wash traveling overhead. Sequencers pulsate all around the room to very entertaining effect, while the different female vocal harmonies are divided between the top and bottom array.

From there, we move into ‘All I Need‘ – the first of two songs to feature Beth Hirsch’ vocals. After a synth pan from front-to-rear, Hirsch’s voice enters from the front ‘phantom’ centre along with an acoustic guitar in front right. Backing vocals (“all in all, there’s something to give…”) predictably answer from behind. There’s a particularly great moment at around the three-minute mark where the electronic piano in the front right speaker emits its delay diagonally to the side left channel, giving way to the wah-wah bass synth sound rising from the rears up into the height array and back around again.

Synth and electric piano alternate front-to-back for ‘Kelly Watch The Stars‘, while laser-like synth effects fly past the listener. Bells chime overhead, with more piano popping up in the side left speaker and the vocoder-processed vocals switching to the sides just before the end. ‘Talisman‘ introduces David Whitaker’s strings, which sound absolutely incredibly spread between the front and side surround speakers.

Dunckel’s Rhodes piano moves to the sides for ‘Remember‘, with the distorted drums dominating the front stage. The vocoder vocals switch off between the fronts and front heights, while strings fade in from the rear and shakers appear overhead. Hirsch then returns in ‘You Make It Easy‘ again featuring piano largely in the sides and showcasing the strings from all around.

Brass highlights trade off right-to-left upfront throughout ‘Ce Matin-La‘, with the sonar-like synthesizer sound echoing all over the listening space. Acoustic guitar fills the front channels for ‘New Star’ while the vocoder alternates between the front and rear height speakers. Moon Safari then concludes with the atmospheric ‘Le Voyage De Pénélope‘, where the lead synth amusingly hops between the centre speaker, sides, rears, and tops. Piano again fills in from the sides, with handclaps in the rear and organ overhead.

The Blu-Ray disc additionally contains a bonus orchestral mix of ‘Remember’ (the ‘David Whitaker version’), which isn’t available to stream in Dolby Atmos. For two-channel listeners, the package also includes a 192 kHz/24 bit rendering of the original 1998 stereo mix. Overall, this packed-yet-inexpensive reissue comes highly recommended to fans of Air and immersive music.

Review by Jonathan Cornell for SDE. Read more of Jonathan’s reviews at ImmersiveAudioAlbum.com.

The 25th anniversary 2CD+blu-ray edition Moon Safari is out now via Rhino. It is available via the SDE shop. Use this link or the button below.


Moon Safari Air /

    • CD 1
      1. La femme d’argent
      2. Sexy Boy
      3. All I Need (feat. Beth Hirsch)
      4. Kelly Watch the Stars
      5. Talisman
      6. Remember
      7. You Make It Easy (feat. Beth Hirsch)
      8. Ce matin là
      9. New Star in the Sky (Chanson pour Solal)
      10. Le voyage de Pénélope
    • CD 2
      1. Neneh Cherry – ‘Kootchi’ (Air Remix)
      2. Crustation – ‘Purple’ (La Femme D’argent Mix)
      3. Dirty Hiroshima (Demo)
      4. New Star in the Sky (Demo)
      5. Ce Matin Lá (Demo)
      6. Maggot Brain (Live)
      7. J’ai Dormi Sous L’eau (BBC live session)
      8. Sexy Boy (BBC live session)
      9. Kelly Watch The Stars (BBC live session)
      10. Kelly Watch The Stars (Extended Version)
      11. Remember (David Whitaker Version)
    • Blu-ray
      “Moon Safari” Dolby Atmos Album
      1. La femme d’argent
      2. Sexy Boy
      3. All I Need (feat. Beth Hirsch)
      4. Kelly Watch the Stars
      5. Talisman
      6. Remember
      7. You Make It Easy (feat. Beth Hirsch)
      8. Ce matin là
      9. New Star in the Sky (Chanson pour Solal)
      10. Le voyage de Pénélope
      Bonus track
      1. Remember (David Whitaker Version)
      Official Videos in HD
      1. Sexy Boy
      2. Kelly Watch The Stars
      3. All I Need
      4. Le Soleil Est Prés De Moi
      Eating Sleeping, Waiting and Playing – Documentary by director Mike Mills

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