JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: Electronica 1- The Time Machine (2015)
Updated: Jan 11, 2020
“Electronica 1- The Time Machine is indeed a good comeback to roots and the best Jarre album in the field since Chronologie”
1 The Time Machine (Boys Noize) 3:52 2 Glory (M83) 3:56 3 Close Your Eyes (Air) 6:23 4 Automatic. Pt. 1 (Vince Clarke) 3:09 5 Automatic. Pt. 2 (Vince Clarke) 2:58 6 If..! (Little Boots) 2:57 7 Immortals (Fuck Buttons) 4:30 8 Suns Have Gone (Moby) 5:46 9 Conquistador (Gesaffelstein) 3:06 10 Travelator, Pt. 2 (Pete Townshend) 3:06 11 Zero Gravity (Tangerine Dream) 6:46 12 Rely on Me (Laurie Anderson) 2:56
13 Stardust (Armin van Buuren) 4:38 14 Watching You (3D's Massive Attack) 4:05 15 A Question of Blood (John Carpenter) 3:00 16 The Train & The River (Lang Lang) 7:13 Columbia | 88875123472
(CD/DDL 69:25) (V.F.)
There is some excitement in the air. The air of the social networks! From the start, I didn't want to write a review about Jean Michel Jarre's last album. The one who was a big magician of sounds and of colors of tones in the 70s has fell asleep, little by little, as the new millennium directed the art to make EM easily without, or with a little, a knowledge of its roots. Metamorphoses, Sessions 2000, Geometry of Love and Teo and Tea are all adventures that have divided his fans into three clans: the pre Zoolook era, the one of Rendez-Vous to Oxygen 7-13 and finally the period of Odyssey Through O2 to Teo and Tea. But my readers insisted and one of them even send me a promo (thanks Carl) in order to talk, to write about it. So here I am! We heard of this ELECTRONICA - The Time Machine by means of a powerful commercial machine which has crumbled little by little the secrets of the album on the social networks, scattering the big names that would be part of the project, as well as promotional videos. The craze got the upper hand over the curiosity when the name of Tangerine Dream, there is a whole parallel to be drawn here between both careers, fed the conversations of the Internet users which salivated at the idea of this unexpected, to say the least, collaboration. From what I heard and read over the Net, the basic idea behind the album is to make an overview on EM, ages and styles, through a crowd of artists who were invited to complete the bases of Jean-Michel Jarre's music. It's a little bit like turning old into new! I found that very conceited. Like if Jarre proclaimed himself to be the Lord of an empire of which he is a pioneer among so many others. An important builder certainly, but a pioneer!
And then the singles came. Glory, Conquistador and Zero Gravity. A rough draft of cold settles down. Heavy with a big envelope of down-tempo which turns into a mixture of dance and trance, Glory and its voices of synth-pop is hardly convincing. That rocks and it's a cheap Electronica, as it occurs to be a lot since the beginning of the 90's. Conquistador is more convincing and awakes the forgotten skeletons of Zoolook while Zero Gravity and its horde of sequences which parade at a brisk pace in synth lamentations perfumed of Chronologie along other synth pads and riffs with fragrances of Hyperborea, we talk of Tangerine Dream here, is sounding terribly cold. But that remains appealing! And we guess that he wants to go farther than his Teo and Tea period. And little by little, the whole object comes to light. There will be 16 tracks and 16 artists, who are precursors in their ways dixit Jarre, for 69 minutes of music. We understand here that we must forget to hear some long evolutive tracks with interstellar flavor (yes, that still exists). The names are big and give thirst! Air, Vince Clarke, Moby, Pete Townshend, Laurie Anderson, Massive Attack and John Carpenter! Admit that it impresses. But where are Klaus Schulze, Vangelis, Kraftwerk, Gottsching (if Townshend is there, Gottsching deserves to be there. Especially when we listen to the result), Eno. Ultimately Bowie! Has-been you will tell me? Then who are Anderson, Townshend and Moby? Still there, if the results were worth the justification. That rather gives the impression that Jean-Michel Jarre tries to attract new bunch of fans by other means. But the result is a big strike into water.
And I am going to try to put things in perspective. In the end, ELECTRONICA - The Time Machine is a good album. Don't get me wrong. But it's far below from what we could have expected from the one who shook the columns of EM temples twice with Oxygene and Zoolook. Far below the big names which figure on it. It's lively. Well done and well crafted. There are lots of rhythms. It's the feast of Electronica with airs and arrangements which smell on the other hand the warmed. Imagine a collection of techno, of synth pop or of dance in a packaging of K-Tel and you have a little the result of this album. I like the way that Jarre lies some samplings of his rhythms of Moon Machine and El Dorado in The Time Machine, which is a real overview of his career in a little less than four minutes (we have to do it and we hear memories of Rendez-Vous and Equinoxe there). It's indeed a catchy, a solid track which makes the mouth water. Afterward we fall in the candy pink with Glory and Close Your Eyes, a beautiful track yes but which always stays in a tiny creative envelope. The segment Automatic brings us to the era of the too underestimated Chronologie album. It's a good shot! The 2nd part is too much centered on the other hand on the model of electronic disco but that does not deprive it of its numerous attractions. I don't want to write about If..!, nor of the very disappointing Suns Have Gone where Moby seems to have complexes to work with Jarre. The same goes for Watching You where Massive Attack's 3D is still looking for itself. Even less of Travelator, Pt. 2, which is a heavy fusion of rock, trance and techno for terrified zombies. I would have traded Townshend, whom I like a lot by the way, for Gottsching in any time! Rely on Me? Ouf.... what a waste of time! And Stardust belongs to the Ultravox catalog. There are some nice shots! Immortals is a superb track which raises the paint out of the walls. There is a deep glaucous atmosphere around this track which gives it a unique cachet. The sequences flicker, the percussions roll, and the arrangements are in the tone! The same goes for the very sinister A Question of Blood where John Carpenter's genius suits very well to these Halloween style sequences which swirl in all sense. We even accept these growls of guitar. That does very Mark Shreeve, period Legion. The Train and The River is doubtless the most brilliant track here. The piano of Lang Lang plots a latent madness which explodes as the atmospheres are more and more torpedoed by attacks of sequences and bangings of electronic percussions. From soft and meditative eaten by heavy and stormy moods which goes towards a very strong electronica, but a very creative one. It's strange, but this is the way I had imagine and hope Jean-Michel Jarre to be. For ages!
As you see, I am quite divided. You like rhythms? You like that when it moves, when it rocks? You are going to like this ELECTRONICA - The Time Machine! Me? I would have like that a little more of boldness (Immortals and The Train and The River are very beautiful examples) and of creativity. There are of beautiful flashes, but still it feels too much the warmed. A little as if Jarre was tired of reinventing himself and has leave this opportunity to others who in the end also try to renew themselves. It's his best since Chronologie. Which is always good to hear!
Sylvain Lupari (October 30th, 2015) ***½**