AIR Pocket Symphony (Helicon) The French duo Nicolas Godin and Jean-Benoit Dunckel - also known as Air - must be the calmest people on Earth. Their music floats in and out of listeners' consciousness like a morning breeze, slowly penetrating the brain waves. There's nothing as hypnotic on Air's new CD as the wonderful "Cherry Blossom Girl," but there's still plenty of the easy-listening electronica and acoustica to which fans of the duo have become accustomed. Cynics might dismiss Pocket Symphony as slightly edgy muzak for the alternative generation, but there's something compelling happening under Godin and Dunckel's dreamy landscapes. Guest vocalist Jarvis Cocker of Pulp fame provides a little variety on the hangover ode "One Hell of a Party," but it's hardly needed: Dunckel's frequent use of something called a voice pad enables him to change his vocals so they sound something like Kate Bush's. If it's possible to create serenity music with an ominous undercurrent, Air has indeed succeeded in creating a new genre. In the words of one of the CD's most ethereal tracks - with vocals courtesy of the Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon - Air's music sounds like "somewhere between waking and sleeping." ALAN PARSONS PROJECT The Essential Alan Parsons (NMC) Calling it "essential" might be overstating the case, but this 30-song double-CD surely is comprehensive. Icons of the Seventies and Eighties perhaps best known today as the inspiration for Dr. Evil's Death Ray in Austin Powers, the Alan Parsons Project in its day served up a buffet of Pink Floyd-lite that had its own distinctive charms. Essentially a partnership between former recording engineer Parsons - who worked on Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, a couple Beatles albums and Paul McCartney's early solo work - and songwriter Eric Woolfson, the Alan Parsons Project was accompanied over the years by a slew of studio pros and mid-level rock musicians like ex-Zombie Colin Blunstone and ex-Hollies member Alan Clarke. The Project aimed high with progressive rock concept pieces about the life of Edgar Allen Poe (Tale of Mystery and Imagination) and the work of sci fi master Isaac Asimov (I, Robot). It's the sort of stuff that Spinal Tap eventually got around to making fun of. The songs "The Turn of a Friendly Card" and "Eye in the Sky" are probably the band's best known, but virtually all its work has a similarly lush feel, with rough edges but a Valium glaze. The musicianship is impeccable, and the melodies do possess a kind of grandeur, but the pseudo-serious high brow rock of the Alan Parsons Project is one aspect of the 70s that is best left to collections like this, and hopefully won't re-emerge as a trend for the future.