Brave New World
JB Dunckel is known for his work with Nicolas Godin as the music duo Air, who gained international success after the release of the critically acclaimed debut album Moon Safari in 1998. H+ is the latest solo release from Dunckel, who has spent the last decade scoring film soundtracks and collaborating with artists such as Lou Hayter and Baroi Johannsson. H+ is an album that sees a positive outlook for the future of humanity. In a world that’s overwhelmed by anxiety, this album offers an optimistic dream for the future.
The title of the album comes from the symbol of Transhumanism, which is the idea that as people, we can evolve beyond the limits of our current physical form using science and technology. H+ turns the idea of fusing man and machine, something many people would describe as their ultimate nightmare- into music, that is actually quite comforting. Dunckel himself is invested in the idea of Transhumanism as a possible solution, decades down the line. He says, “While reading about Transhumanism, I said to myself that this type of science was a very positive thing; it could save humankind, and I feel like science could save man from death and disease and all these bad things that could happen to us. It felt overwhelming to me to know that, somewhere out there, are some nice scientists working for us, wanting to help us, you know?”
The album shines like a beam of light, with melodies that are fresh yet familiar and comforting. Dunckel whisper-sings his fantasy of a new world and a new hope for the human race. “Hold On” is breathtaking and crystalline, transfixed on the expansiveness of technology. Like a breezy commercial for a cyborg brain implant, “Transhumanity” is a slow-moving synth-filled dreamscape, with Dunckel whispering lines like, “Here comes the new men/ Their life has no end/ They’re superhuman.” “Ballad Non Sense” is a soothing, cosmic piano-filled instrumental. “Carpet Bombing” is playful and fast-paced, straddling the line between ambient and dance music.
Fans of early era Air may be pleased with the album’s gentle synthpop. Dunckel composed H+ with his MS20 and Arp 2600 synthesizers by his side. Most of the songs contain recognizable patterns featured in many Air songs. On the album’s similarity to early works of Air, Dunckel says, “You can see the DNA of Air in this music. It’s not like an album that’s working against my past in the band.” Instead, he continues, “it feels as though I’m going on my path, where my name is my real name, and I can follow what we did with Air. It’s cool.” The album is comprised of substantial analog instrumentation that achieves grandeur through a minimalistic blend of piano, synths, drums and Dunckel’s vocals. “I wanted it to sound really strong, with epic pads, epic sounds,” he says. “A little bit like Blade Runner, in a way. I also wanted to mix acoustic and electronic textures together – that’s what they do on soundtracks now.”
H+ is an ode to the future, to the fusing of technology into the body. Dunckel has created a masterful work of melodies infused with an ideology that melds together and transport the listener to a possible outcome to all of this madness, perhaps what the world will feel like 500 years from now.