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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Jean-Michel Jarre: Magnetic Fields (1981)

Updated: Jan 20, 2021

“Between Cosmos and the magnetic fields of the Earth is a field of samplings that survives quite well to 2 great planetary successes”

1 Magnetic Fields I 17:49

2 Magnetic Fields II 5:25

3 Magnetic Fields III 2:54

4 Magnetic Fields IV 6:13

5 Magnetic Fields V 3:29

Dreyfus Records 824 748-2

(CD 35:53) (V.F.)

(Rock Cosmique French School)

It must be said; the bar was already very high after Oxygene. Equinoxe flirted with this bar, while MAGNETIC FIELDS passed just below. However, this 5th studio album from the French musician proposed a touch of novelty to a style that has evolved a lot in 3 years, since Equinoxe in fact. I liked this album. It marks a turning point in the career of the French synthesist, because he is one of the first to massively use the technique of samplings. A technic that will bring us among other things to the amazing Zoolook and to the orchestral arrangements of Rendezvous. And to me, the first title is a real bomb of creativity.

Magnetic Fields I starts with a structure of sequences that follows its trace in the echo of its loops and in a superb stereo effect. Its beauty lies in the nuances that identify this rolling of sequences with a slight shift in its path. This whirlwind of melodious sequences will mark the story of Jean-Michel Jarre as it will serve as an introduction to several local weather shows, news bulletins, television jingles and especially to the famous American series Bare Essence, in 1982-1983. Synth layers, in violin and orchestration clothes, envelop these sonic ball bearings with a little bit of suspense in these immense caresses which are equal to those lunar beams which pierce the night of his luminous eye to guide boats, like spaceships. After this introduction of auditory delights, the rhythm comes alive on a good fusion between these sequences, beatbox machine and a good line of bass which carve a fluid rhythm which dresses of these layers, plus layers of voices and other percussive elements that sparkle like a sparkling wine filled with sonic bubbles. The rhythm is rather furious with a contagious energy, we hear frantic laughters, and we already notice a new sound at the level of percussive effects that are like dozens of balls which follow each other and get disperse to find themselves in a fascinating cohesion. A dramatic calm settle around the 6th minute and Jarre takes the opportunity to present his new toy, the Fairlight sampling machine and its impressive arsenal of sounds and vocal effects that dress the atmospheres of a rich and innovative sound texture. We drift into an almost scary atmosphere with good orchestral effects for a good 5 minutes of auditory hallucinations. This passage leads us to the lively and jerky rhythm of Magnetic Fields I which will also gives very good synth solos that intersect their differences and harmonies in more anesthetic layers. And even if we meet another sonic delight, a shorter one, to put my ears in appetite mode, the rhythm and the superb solos lead us to the finale of Magnetic Fields I which, in my humble opinion is a superb piece of contemporary EM. Once again, Jean-Michel Jarre has innovated.

With its clapping of hands and its frenzied rhythm Magnetic Fields II will become one of the classics of the French synthesist. The synth swarms with foggy effects and layers as well as solos that are in symbiosis with a musical and energetic rhythm. A rhythm that is essentially based on a series of jerks which in turn is supported by good percussions, a juicy bass and nervous chords that rushed on the Fairlight's chimeric railtracks before falling into the dark arms of Magnetic Fields III. This highly atmospheric title opens the magisterial. Magnetic Fields IV, an electronic hymn to sweetness, to tenderness that has little equivalence in the repertoire of Jarre. The melody is catchy, like the dimension of the percussive elements, on a good setting of floating and drifting synth layers which cross the skin to wake up the roots of our emotions. A superb title where the sampling is superbly amazing with slamming and steamy percussions à la Jean-Michel Jarre. Magnetic Fields V closes on another samba or rumba that made the strangeness of the cosmic monuments of Oxygene and Equinoxe.

Different from these last two albums, MAGNETIC FIELDS remains a major work in the history of contemporary EM with its injection of sound effects, read here samplings, that has submerged the work in an even more surreal dimension at a time when electronic music was taking its big turn towards the era of MIDI synths.

Sylvain Lupari (21/10/06) ****½*

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