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Jean-Michel Jarre - Metamorphoses CD (album) cover

METAMORPHOSES

Jean-Michel Jarre

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4 stars Oh, the 12 Dreams of the Sun! Many and legend are the tales told about Jarre's millennial concert in Egypt. News items at the time suggested he wanted to literally cap the show at midnight by lowering a gold capstone on the Great Pyramid of Cheops, to restore it to its ancient glory, in a blatant nod (said various nutters) either to the Zionists or to the Illuminati, who were of course going to be conducting dark ceremonies beneath the pyramid. Apparently. It was also rumoured he originally wanted to perform from dusk till dawn, a solid 12 hours (one for each Dream of the Sun), which personally I find even less likely than the conspiracy theories. But anyway, there was a concert, and this album was the result.

It's certainly one of M. Jarre's more progressive albums, in as much as it's quite different from what he'd done before, but the problem is that this sort of thing was innovative twenty or thirty years ago when Jarre was laying the groundwork for it. Nowadays everybody with a decent synth and sequencer can do something similar. M. Jarre is no longer a pioneer in the field of electronica - now he has to compete among equals. Well, as equal as you can get to a man whose concerts tend to use major landmarks as projection screens.

The good news is that he manages to come up with a fairly distinctive sound, while mixing in a bit of voguish "world music" influence and borrowing a little back from the dance music scene which has borrowed so much from him over the years. He also uses vocals and actual lyrics much more than before, not in itself a bad thing. There's not much that's unremarkable here, and nothing I'd consider objectionable. There is, however, a bit too much processing of voices to give them that breathy, spacey sound, which makes it seem as though Jarre is trying to copy Air on some tracks. Maybe he is, who knows?

I stayed up to watch some of the 12 Dreams on TV, and "Je Me Souviens" is, appropriately, the track I remember. It's a strong opener - it just doesn't go on long enough for me. I could stick this one on loop for hours. "C'est la Vie" is a lengthy female-sung piece with a definite Middle Eastern feel to it - quite lively. "Rendez-Vous a Paris" is the first piece I'd consider below par on the album - it's a bit of a clunker to begin with, although it has some rather nice violin playing in the second half. "Hey Gagarin" goes through a similar process of becoming more interesting halfway through, although it's better than the previous track.

You get your first clear echo of Jarre's back catalog in "Millions of Stars", which has definite shades of Oxygene about it. The vocals consist of a string of letters and numbers - I don't know if these are the names of musical notes or not, if that's at all significant. Another highlight in "Tout est Bleu" - some almost apocalyptic weather forecasting leads into a spirited male chorus of "mais... tout est bleu, dans tes yeux, tout est bleu". Uplifting stuff. And so to "Love Love Love". This one's bizarre, and took a couple of listens to properly grow on me. The title suggests a song about love, but the sound is brutally mechanical and the female vocalist delivers her words without any emotion. An ironic piece, perhaps. It's strangely catchy, though. Just take care to watch out for that breathy Air imitation. "Bells" I vaguely remember from the TV show, and it's another track I could happily stick on repeat.

"Miss Moon" is, I would say, one of the most progressive pieces on this album, maybe the most. It's not much like anything else Jarre's done (apart from a slight hint of Zoolook about the vocal processing), and it's not like much else in the market, but it has a familiar feel to it. Strong Chinese influence on this one. "Give Me a Sign" is a very upbeat song which I can't really object to, but which I don't feel very strongly about. Possibly the most pop-like track, certainly a stark contrast to the track before. "Gloria, Lonely Boy" is the most Air-like song on the album, and also very filmic. Listen to that key change and you should see what I mean. It's got an orchestral depth to it, with full string arrangement and a melancholic air. Sorry, did I say Air again? Hard not to think it with "Lonely Boy". And so at last to "Silhouette", which I have to admit is eminently forgettable. Pleasant enough, and not exactly bland, but not a stand-out.

Overall I'd say 'Metamorphoses' can hold its head up alongside any of its predecessors - above some of them. It's a bold new direction for M. Jarre, it's the daddy of dance music coming home and sending dance music to its room. It's a welcome bit of innovation after the less-than-innovative 'Oxygene 7-13'. Excellent album for the modern prog rock fan who also likes a bit of electronica.

Report this review (#55876)
Posted Thursday, November 10, 2005 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Laurie Anderson is back for these "Métamorphoses". She had already collaborated on the very average (to say the least) "Zoolook" in '84.

The music featured on this album ranges from techno for a big chunk ("Je Me Souviens", "Tout Est Bleu", "Bells") to spacey and melodic ("Millions Of Stars" and to a certain extent "Gloria?"). I would have preferred more of the latter type. Sculptural vocals (or wording).

There are also some combos made of Oriental sounds and dance music ("C' Est La Vie", "RV A Paris") which are rather original and not too bad to listen to. Still, it isn't the JMJ I prefer. Somewhat too repetitive to my taste.

There is another homage to some space man here as well (after "The Last Rendezvous"), this time the Russian "Gagarin" (the first human being to travel into space). In some way, JMJ follows the same path as TD in the evolution of his music. Of course, his music has always had a more commercial flavour and it is again highlighted on this work.

I can't really say that this album is good. Some good parts, like the fine closing "Silhouette" which features some excellent vocalizing. But this work as a whole is closer to average and that's the reason I only grant it with two stars.

Report this review (#261419)
Posted Monday, January 18, 2010 | Review Permalink

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