What Is Softcore?

With impeccable timing, Air associates resurrect '80s new wave on upcoming LP.

Air can do strange things to people.

Not the air we breathe, but Air the band. And they’ve taken three imaginative musicians — singer/songwriter Jason Falkner, occasional Beck drummer Brian Reitzell and Moog Cookbook keyboardist Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. — back to 1980.

The guys, who spent much of the last two years contributing to Air’s 10,000 Hz Legend (see “Air Find Power In Messing With Beauty On Second Album” ) and touring to promote it, are moving ahead with their new wave trio, Softcore (see “Jason Falkner Goes Softcore With Manning, Reitzell” ), now that the sounds of New Order and Gang of Four appear to be experiencing a renaissance.

“Everything, in my opinion, is sort of in,” Reitzell said from his Los Angeles studio last week. “The Strokes are ’79, and they’re huge. Dance music is also. I know people who love the White Stripes and Kylie Minogue. The ’80s thing is just another sort of thing you can use.”

Softcore’s origins date back to Reitzell and Manning’s 2000 electronic pop experiment Logan’s Sanctuary, the “soundtrack” to the imaginary sequel to “Logan’s Run” that features guest vocals from Falkner, Manning’s former Jellyfish bandmate.

“Roger and I were in Paris recording with Air and we got the final mixes of Logan’s Sanctuary,” Reitzell said. “He came up to my hotel room and we listened to it and said, ‘What do we do next?’ ”

After recording with Air, who were dedicated fans of Logan’s Sanctuary, the three musicians spent two days writing and recording 10 new wave tracks.

“We took it around to a few different record labels, and people didn’t understand why we were doing what we were doing,” Reitzell explained.

Then, suddenly, artists ranging from No Doubt to the Bloodhound Gang decided to expose their new wave obsessions.

“Now, turn on the radio and it feels like the heyday of KROQ,” said Reitzell, who recently drummed on some demo tracks for Beck’s next album (see “Beck Entering Studio To Work On Acoustic-Based LP” ).

Having returned home from the Air tour, Softcore are re-recording their as-yet-untitled debut album and shooting for a late summer release. Labels are interested this time around, though the group will likely stay with Emperor Norton Records, the progressive indie that released Logan’s Sanctuary.

“I want to support them as they’ve supported me … they let me do weird sh–” Reitzell said. “My only concern is that it came out a lot better and certainly more commercial than we imagined, and we want to give it a fair shake.”

Whether Softcore succeed at radio or develop the cult following of Logan’s Sanctuary, the trio will cherish the experience for allowing them to explore their true influences.

“I’ve just always been a huge fan of Human League,” Reitzell said.