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Jean-Michel Jarre - Electronica 1 - The Time Machine CD (album) cover


Jean-Michel Jarre


Prog Related

3.11 | 38 ratings

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4 stars With the exception of this album, I haven't yet listened to the albums Jarre released after Metamorphoses, partly because of his change in sound and partly because of the rather lackluster reviews they have garnered here on PA. I am familiar with all his previous studio albums, however.

Jarre's output has tended toward pop-style electronica, as evidenced by the fact that he's listed under Prog Related category rather than Progressive Electronic. Nevertheless, I find him a good composer and enjoy much of his material.

Electronica 1: The Time Machine consists of 68 minutes of music, so it's almost a double album. As the album's subtitle suggests, the music represents a fusion of classical and contemporary electronica. Each track is the result of collaboration with other artists and groups, ranging from musical contemporaries from Jarre's generation to emerging acts. Electronica 2 is expected to be released in Spring 2016.

The synthesizers used on the album include such classics as the Arp 2600, EMS AKS and VCS 3, Mini Moog, Moog Modular, Fairlight, Korg MS-20, and Roland JP8. I noticed Jarre makes use of arpeggiators more than usual for him on Electronica 1.

Of Jarre's collaborators I was only previously familiar with Tangerine Dream, John Carpenter and Pete Townshend. I also heard the instrumental version of Massive Attack's Teardrop as used on the House television series as the theme song.

The album opener, The Time Machine, is suitably uptempo. Somewhat surprisingly for a Jarre composition, it features a Minimoog solo.

Glory is an upbeat and spacy song, with pleasant vocals and chorus chanting.

Close Your Eyes features metallic vocoder-processed vocals. It has a slow tempo and features piano prominently.

Jarre worked with Vince Clarke (Depeche Mode, Yazoo, Erasure) on Automatic, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2. They are polyrhythmic, sequencer-driven tracks.

I really dislike If?!, though I admit that it's catchy in an earworm sort of way (research suggests that songs with lyrics account for 73% of earworms). I dislike the girly bubblegum pop vocals and the whooping and scatting. Thankfully it's only three minutes long.

Immortals is driven by an interesting but rather poppy arpeggiator pattern overlaid on a synth wash, with drums joining in later.

Suns Have Gone starts with some arpeggios and synth strings. Moby starts singing and synth drums soon join in. The bass line reminds me of Equinoxe.

Conquistador is a Middle Eastern-tinged instrumental (it reminds me a little of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir and Deep Purple's Perfect Strangers). I actually like the drums here and think they suit the composition. This composition slightly reminds me of Industrial Revolution Part 3.

Travelator, Pt. 2 features Pete Townshend of the Who, who also contributes guitar. The first minute is okay, but then the drums starts and Townshend starts shouting. I dislike the last minute "We'll be dancing on a better planet/Move your feet to the beat". I suppose Travelator, Pt. 1 will be featured on Electronica 2. Perhaps the collaboration is not that unusual when one considers that Townshend's Baba O'Riley (1971) anticipated Tangerine Dream's sequencer-driven compositions. In fact, Jarre mentions Baba O'Riley as tribute for Terry Riley, for whom he worked for as a teenager.

Zero Gravity is Jarre's collaboration with Tangerine Dream and sadly, with Froese's passing, it looks to be a one-off. It's main the reason why I bought this album as I heard a preview and was hoping for more compositions in this style. It manages to sound both like Jarre and Schmoelling-era TD. It features a guitar-like Minimoog line. The track ends with the rain effects of Equinoxe.

Rely on Me is one of the songs I dislike on the album. It is a Laurie Anderson collaboration, who has previously worked with Jarre on Zoolook and Je Me Souviens on Metamorphoses. It is another spoken word song and reminds me of Metamorphoses' Love Love Love due to its computer-style vocals. In fact, the song is supposed to represent a conversation with a smart-phone and is pretty witty. The bass line reminds me of Oxygene Part 6.

Stardust is the composition I consider closest in style to Jarre's spacy sound of the 70s and 80s. It's mood reminds me of Second Rendez-Vous and the Fourth Rendez-Vous.

Watching You is the album's nadir for me, mainly due to the slurred and digitally processed vocals. If it were instrumental, I would rate it above If?! and Rely on Me.

Thankfully, the album ends on a high note, as both the remaining songs are among my favorites on this album. A Question of Blood is slightly eerie and reminiscent of Carpenter's Halloween Theme. The Train & The River is probably the most unexpected collaboration, as Lang Lang is a classical pianist. It starts off in a jazzy manner, but sequencers and bass lines soon join in, with the piano joining in at different intervals. Halfway through the track, the echoed synth and from Oxygene Part 1 and Equinoxe Part 2 makes an appearance. I enjoy classical music, but I frankly don't feel the piano adds too much. The album ends with piano and rain effect, in a manner reminiscent of Equinoxe.

Overall, I'd say this is the best album Jarre has released since Chronologie (I enjoyed Oxygene 7-13, but I found it too close-sounding to the original).

On this album I prefer the instrumental compositions to those that have vocals, and not just because I generally prefer instrumental electronic music. My favorite tracks are Zero Gravity, Automatic, Pt. 1 and Pt. 2, A Question of Blood, Stardust, and The Train & The River. Kudos to Jarre for his attempt to update his style and making a strong album. Even though there are tracks I don't particularly enjoy, there is enough material on the album to make me satisfied with my purchase.

Replayer | 4/5 |


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