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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: Amazônia (2021)

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

JMJ's genius is to weave a soundtrack of an unknown film that takes root in our mind

1 Amazônia (Part 1) 7:42

2 Amazônia (Part 2) 9:59

3 Amazônia (Part 3) 8:10

4 Amazônia (Part 4) 3:16

5 Amazônia (Part 5) 6:04

6 Amazônia (Part 6) 3:33

7 Amazônia (Part 7) 4:18

8 Amazônia (Part 8) 3:19

9 Amazônia (Part 9) 6:23

Columbia ‎– 19439858232

(CD, Vinyl and DDL 52:47) (V.F.)

(Tribal ambient, EM)

It's not easy to follow the career of an artist like Jean-Michel Jarre. Innovator, yes-yes, refusing any form of simplicity, he goes where no one goes. Like in this AMAZONIA! This fresco of almost 53 minutes, changes skin, like these anacondas which are the masters, with almost every new breath where we are either astonished, charmed, amazed and/or annoyed. Yet, JMJarre exploits all his styles in a mosaic so composite that it is difficult to maintain a link throughout its 9 chapters, unless you are totally immersed in its musical universe. That's why AMAZÔNIA is proposed in different versions that totally change its sound signature. Available in CD, vinyl and download formats, AMAZÔNIA is above all a soundtrack, a concept album designed to accompany the exhibition of photographer Sebastião Salgado who spent nearly 6 years spying on this mythical river. More than 200 photos and hours of videos were to feed a large exhibition that was planned between April and August 2021. It was postponed due to Covid-19. Described like an ambient album, AMAZÔNIA has nevertheless its large share of electronic rhythms which follow one another in turn on the album and sometimes up to 3 times in a title. These phases, more or less evanescent, plunge into atmospheric moments well fed precisely by the bank of samplings collected all along the Amazon. What we call Field Recordings is represented by various chants and tribal dialogues that spread over the 9 tracks of this album. The crackling of fires and the hubbub of the daily life of the tribes along this river, like these explosions of thunder and lightning, are also well represented while the organic fauna is more present than the avian one, except for the yapping of dogs and the rare cries of macaques. One last thing! The sound and the possible sound proposals by buying the CD or the vinyl. Both possibilities come with a code to download different sound sources of the album. I chose to listen to the CD version on first, whereas I chose the binaural version for headphones after. Day and night my friends! An immersive listening that gives a very close contact with Jean-Michel Jarre's new adventure.

It's in the reverberations of a sound explosion that Amazônia (Part 1) infiltrates our ears. And when I write infiltrate, the word is quite appropriate. Literally entering through one ear and leaving through the other, this first part of AMAZÔNIA fascinates with the hubbub of the neighboring peoples of this great river and more personal dialogues that are linked to a delicate stationary dance of electronic arpeggios. The ambiences feed our ears with riparian samplings, merging marvellously the nature that transforms at the same time as the sound horizons. Cowbells, a creeping bass line and a Vangelis-like electronic pulse adorn a new rhythmic mutation that is slow and built on a plethora of percussions and percussive elements in the last part of Amazônia (Part 1) whose tribal ambiences encircle Byron Metcalf's inspirations in a remarkable work of a percussive flora. If the numerous changes inside the 8 minutes of Amazônia (Part 1) were salutary, they have the opposite effect on Amazônia (Part 2) with a heterogeneous mosaic which gives birth to very interesting rhythmic initiations as well as to daring orchestrations. But too many modifications and passages where the sound goes out of its dimension frighten the ears which want to flee a second listening whereas the third one is necessary to let itself embrace, literally, by this title with prismatic influences. Amazônia (Part 3) recovers these frightened ears with a good electronic rhythm, started in the finale of (Part 2), which gets lost, twice, in a heavy passage of tribal ambiances. These phases are filled with murmurs and vocal chants, in addition to stridulations and atmospheric elements to come back in a second rhythmic passage a little soft and a third clearly more energetic that flirts even with a zest of Electronica. A creative Electronica with organic effects linked to the first 45 seconds of Amazônia (Part 4) whose ambient phase is more like a horror movie. The rhythm that follows, its orchestrations and tribal chants, adorn one of the best moments of this album. Amazônia (Part 5) offers two dichotomous rhythm textures that fade into a long ambient segment of pagan flute-playing rivermen. The tonal dimension of Amazônia (Part 6) is more striking in this ambient track and its short rhythmic explosion without consequences. Amazônia (Part 7) is built on the same precepts, except that JMJarre has woven for about ten minutes a veil of apprehension which can be guessed by the orchestrations, and which digs a bit of discomfort to penetrate further and further on this long mythical river. Amazônia (Part 8) is a faithful auditory witness of it with its long phase of ambiences almost free of the prints of the civilization. We can hear the falls in the distance trying to attract the sound expedition that takes a safer route by approaching a last river branch where the intensity has no other explanation than the anxiety and the feeling of drama. Even in the face of the peaceful songs of giant locusts and other sonic maneuvers related to this last leap into the unknown where the storms still have a hint of torment before hearing civilization again with these tribal airs that concludes Jarre's very last adventure.

Did I like AMAZONIA? Absolutely! Jean-Michel Jarre's genius is to weave a soundtrack of an unknown film that takes root in our imagination. In this way, we ride the current of this river with black and white images, evocative of tension, in our heads. Like this journey, we can find the time long by instants but the tonal decor, like the real one, are inciters to appreciate even more the sound blooms here and there. The rhythms!? They are everywhere, just kept them in mind as they are constantly changing. And let yourself be tempted by the different versions. Perceptions change and so does the music.

Sylvain Lupari (July 25th, 2021) *****

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