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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: Waiting for Cousteau (1990)

An album in two steps with its phases of contagious rhythms and its exotic melodies as well as a long phase of meditative music

1 Calypso I 9:15

2 Calypso II 6:20

3 Calypso III 6:25

4 Waiting for Cousteau 47:00

Polygram CD 8773912

(CD 69:00) (V.F.)

(Electronic Tribal beats, ambient)

My first contact with this album extremely disappointed me. I remember! Just thinking of hearing a 47-minute-long title, I imagined treasures of cosmic wanderings with rhythmic jolts of a sequencer as creative as in the periods of Oxygene and Equinoxe, of pure meditative atmosphere. Yes, I was disappointed. I was hoping for these analog cosmic rhythms, a return to basics! Nothing like that! Nada! Except for a long atonal sonic river where a somber half-aquatic half-cosmic atmosphere evolves in suspension under the melancholy chords of a piano ashamed to make heard its linear melody cold like the ocean floor. Fortunately, there was the Calypso trilogy in tribute to Commander Yves-Jacques Cousteau's Calypso ships. Because this 14th opus by Jean-Michel Jarre is dedicated to the work of the French oceanologist.

So, I concentrated only on the first 3 titles for a long period of my life. Boiling tracks that are imbued with exotic Caribbean rhythms and atmospheres. A big industrial snore splits water, witnessing the imprints of Revolutions in WAITING FOR COUSTEAU. Follows a festive air with West Indian percussions which accompany nervous arpeggios, stigmatizing a harmony as lively as the rhythmic flow. Flow pleasantly supported by a mesh of percussions in both Brazilian and industrial hues and others more in rock mode that flirt with the electronic side of the sequencer and a solid bass line. Would I dare to write that a Zoolook embrace is dragging there that I would be crucified? Yet the tribal-techno vision of rhythms as well as vocal effects are there to remind us of this imposing avant-gardist work in the discography of the famous French musician. I liked this Calypso I instantly, and Calypso II is even better with its futuristic apocalyptic intro. Previously, thousands of electronic seagulls injected their cries in flickering synth line pulses and in giant ocean swirls. Electronic beams auscultate an enigmatic sound horizon and a line of hyperactive sequences staggers in a spasmodic way harpooned by breathtaking military percussions. The coming rhythm deposits its arsenal of percussions whose echoes and hammer tones on an anvil are as attractive as these synth pads with haunting melodies. The rhythm changes skin in order to adopt a structure unique to EM that hundreds of invisible percussionists mistreat with a melodious rhythmic approach. The effect is awesome in headphones! Calypso III offers a slower rhythm with its melodramatic vision well anchored by heavy resonant percussions and by orchestral synth pads. This first half of WAITING FOR COUSTEAU is very attractive with its melancholy for the Revolutions album.

Now the long title track! I found it disappointing with its 47 minutes of pure ambiance. An immersive meditative track woven into the calm of quiet waters by a windless evening and night, while we are floating literally on ocean. If the layers weave the lunar decor, the keyboard makes tinkling its chords that respond to their harmonies, like an echo on the sea of which the Moon is the only witness. It took me a long time to find something good in this ambient symphony. And over the years, I have succumbed to the point of saying that it's one of the best ambient meditative music, thanks to these chords which slide on the edge of a calm water. Sound effects add an organic vision well ahead of its time, while the tingling notes in the ocean night continue to charm the moon ... and my pre-sleep period. To appreciate its true value, you have to approach Waiting for Cousteau with your ears wide open in a pair of headphones, your eyes closed. We will then discover an amazing musical journey where your imagination becomes the primary factor. Either you travel to the heart of a virgin cave, or you float in a cosmos surrounded by water points, or you are simply in a state of synchronicity with your inner mind.

You have to take the time to tame this enigmatic album that is WAITING FOR COUSTEAU. An album in two steps with its phases of contagious rhythm and its exotic melodies as well as a long phase of meditative music which leaves the confines of the oceans to embrace the borders of a cosmos. You have to let yourself be enveloped and overwhelmed by these 47 minutes. This is the only way to get through. And you see, for almost 20 years that I have been listening this track now in the darkness of my soul in order to find the lines of light that lurk there. A beautiful work to discover in its entirety from Jean-Michel Jarre.

Sylvain Lupari (March 28th, 2010) *****

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