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Jean-Michel Jarre - Sessions 2000 CD (album) cover


Jean-Michel Jarre


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2.91 | 39 ratings

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4 stars Depending on your point of view, the best (i.e. earliest) albums by synth-superstar Jean Michel Jarre are today either icons of analog nostalgia or just plain dated artifacts. I'll admit I lost touch with his career after 1978, just before Jarre embraced the more sterile and bombastic digital sounds of the 1980s, and began touring the largest arenas on planet Earth. Subtlety doesn't count for much when you're setting world records for concert attendance and filling the night sky with pyrotechnic laser displays, and it seemed the more his fame grew the less interesting his music became (or was it the other way around?).

Which is one reason why this year 2000 recording (belatedly released two years later) took a lapsed fan like myself completely by surprise. The music, arranged like an audio diary of homemade studio doodles (each track is titled with the date it was made) marked a welcome return to the warmth and intimacy of Jarre's best efforts ("Oxygene", "Equinoxe"). But at the same time the album was a startling departure from his earlier work, and in its own quiet way remains a triumph of atmosphere and design.

It sounds almost like the score to a retro-chic, sci-fi film noir scenario (think of Godard's "Alphaville"), complete with evocative late-night trumpet solos and echoing vibraphones, all of it (plus the acoustic upright bass) presumably sampled and programmed on digital keyboards, but still very convincing.

The album might have been little more than a self-indulgent crass jazz pastiche, but Jarre isn't robbing other genres as much as creating something entirely new, similar at times to the intergalactic virtual cocktail lounge vibe of ROBERT FRIPP's ProjeKct 2, produced more or less concurrently. I'm thinking in particular of the "September 14" session here: Jean Michel was in a playful mood that day.

The collection ends on a note of almost mystic epiphany, recorded shortly before the final solstice of the last Millennium ("December 17"). The track adds a rich, ambient epilogue to an already unexpected album, and more than that capped an entire year of fertile music making, far removed from the crowds and acclaim of Jarre's mainstream career.

Neu!mann | 4/5 |


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