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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: Zoolook (1984)

“A brilliant stroke of genius. Period!”

1 Ethnicolor 11:40 2 Diva 7:35 3 Zoolook 3:42 4 Wooloomooloo 3:18 5 Zoolookologie 3:50 6 Blah-Blah Cafe 3:20 7 Ethnicolor II 3:53 Dreyfus Records 824 750-2

(CD 37:18) (V.F.) (Ethnic and world e-music)

With ZOOLOOK, Jean-Michel Jarre transcended the wonderful world of Electronic Music in order to demonstrate that its exponential potential was still in the fetal state. More than avant-gardist, the massive use of voices samplings, we are talking about 25 forms of language that have been cut and glued to serve as bases of rhythms as well as ambiances, has exceeded all that has never been done while surprising the entire music industry in 1984. And if I remember correctly, even his father, who is the famous film music composer Maurice Jarre, was very impressed by this new stage of the art for the ears. Thus, to realize his experimental sonic fresco, Jarre multiplied the samplings of different human voices recorded during his numerous travels in the four corners of the planet. And to humanize this music, Jarre surrounds himself with a real band and breaks his shell of loneliness to bring out a new musical madness that will lead him to gigantic outdoor concerts where millions of eyes and ears will be marked forever by this strange Frenchman.

The first synth lines of Ethnicolor, which sound so much like an elephant trumpet, bring me to heaven. Sounds of mammoth are roaring among the deformed voices of a synthetic dialect where the wonderful voice of Laurie Anderson calms the worry of this ambient vocalized sonic tempest. Floating and waving, the first movement sneaks among these voice effects and some scattered dramatic percussions which shape an uncertain rhythmic pattern. Percussions which bursts here and there among sinuous synth waves which cut out the ambiences by multicolored sound streaks. The bass snores. It spits its musical venom which increases a pace beneath the hiccupping voices. Was it the first steps of hip-hop? Anyway! The abstracted beat goes up and down among some threatening synth breezes and buzzing effects. The drum of Yogi Horton is vicious and each knock breaks the pace with strength on a jerky and a nervous organic tempo fed by a vile bass. Taken in a whirlwind, these sound elements are sucked up and spat out with a passionate rhythm with unmistakably delirious sound and voice effects that an immense shroud of synth pads and lines transports with harmony. These are 12 minutes of pure magic and a masterpiece which worth the buying of ZOOLOOK and which worth in fact the entire discography of Jarre. I read somewhere that Diva, like Blah Blah Café by the way, was pulled out of the Music from Supermarket sessions. It starts with a rather ambient mood where the vocal effects, mixed to the childish exclamations of Laurie Anderson, are of an intriguing charm. A light tempo, slightly beaten up by the bumps of Marcus Miller's bass, settles down. It's a kind of simple-minded beat which is livened up by a game of voices samplings and by percussions which maintain an increasing interest. This is music piece made for an avant-gardism Diva. And this suits very well to Laurie Anderson.

The title-track is wild! I don't know anybody who dislikes the vicious beat of it. It's a boiling track which breathes life and trance music. In fact, it will be remixed worldly so much it's catchy. The rhythm section is hallucinating. It turns violently with this DJ sound technic of tshack-tshack-tshack...Kraftwerk on dope! And it will rip the paint out of your walls. Zoolookologie is the same vein. It's the commercial hit of this album and the game of the bass and percussions is simply catchy. You will love this. So, will you with Blah-Blah Café which is another lively track with a fat bass line and its juicy chords which hop in the lines of a good-humoured synth and of its saxophone scents. The arrangements and the samplings are brilliant, so much that we don't even know if it's not a synth which does the talking. Wooloomooloo and Ethnicolor II are two other short tracks where the ambiences are crossing electronic moods variegated by voices effects and insane samplings.

ZOOLOOK is a masterpiece of boldness. After 3 albums where he reinvented cosmic EM by making it more melodious and livelier, Jean-Michel Jarre feels the urge to do things differently and he does. And this move is significant because it has opened the doors to a new kind of EM where the techno and the space music blend perfectly. It's the birth of a more intelligent and a more progressive techno that will hatch some years later. Obviously, fans of the first era were disappointed. Myself I freaked out of surprise when I heard the dance rhythms of Diva, the second half, the wild Zoolook, Zoolookologie and Blah Blah Café. But Jarre was brilliant. The sound effects are so crying of ingenuity and so performing on a good hi-fi system that a listening was an obligation. And the dependence followed. A brilliant stroke of genius. Period!

Sylvain Lupari (January 19th, 2010) *****

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