So apparently one of the dudes from the French outfit Air has had a side gig for nine years that I was unaware of… To be fair, I never really was a big Air fan to begin with, so it’s understandable I never heard of Darkel. It’s pretty good ambient, chilled-out pop stuff that doesn’t stray too far from home — maybe a little more minimal than the Air stuff.
Better known as one half of the French electronic pop duo Air, Jean-Benoît Dunckel embarked on his solo project, Darkel, while he and fellow Air member Nicolas Godin worked with Charlotte Gainsbourg on her album 5:55. He chose the name Darkel as a twist on his last name, which means “dark” in German, and also because he worked on the project at night with bassists Laurent Griffon and Dayan Korolic. While his Darkel songs have the same hazy, sensual atmosphere and lush synth passages as his Air work, they also explore Dunckel’s fondness for more straightforward pop and rock, and influences such as Ween and the Beatles. Astralwerks released Darkel in fall 2006. Dunckel then took an extended break from the project, releasing three more albums with Air, further establishing himself as a film composer and embarking on collaborations with New Young Pony Club’s Lou Hayter (as Tomorrow’s World) and Bang Gang’s Bardi Johannsson (as Starwalker). He returned to the project in 2015 with The Man of Sorrow, an EP boasting even more lavish-sounding arrangements.