Like the other Pierre Moerlen's Gong albums, Downwind is predominantly jazz fusion and has little to do with the psychedelic space rock of Daevid Allen's Gong, even though the bands share a common history. It marks a slight departure from the formula of Pierre Moerlen's Gong's previous records Gazeuse! and Expresso II, towards conventional pop/rock.
"Aeroplane" and "What You Know" are short-form pop songs featuring lead vocals by Moerlen, the first time vocals appeared on a Gong record since 1975. Keyboards, some of which are provided by Steve Winwood, augment or even replace mallet percussion on a few tracks. Mike Oldfield contributes guitar on the title track.