Album-Review: Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine

Electronica 1 is Jean-Michel Jarre’s 20th Studio album since the beginning of his career, in 1971.
Jarre is a music explorer, an electronic discoverer, an adventurer of sound. For the past 45 (!) years, the man has explored and dug deeper and deeper into sound in order to innovate, create, thus becoming one of the pioneers of electronic music.

On Electronica 1: The Time Machine, Jean Michel Jarre allows us in an eerie, futuristic world, a world of machines, steam and tubes, speed and travels through space and time.
A world absolutely magical, filled with bright colours and tones that change with every track. And for good reason, as on Electronica 1, each song was produced in collaboration. Artists as different as Boys Noize and Gesaffelstein can be from Pete Townshend, or from M83 and Moby. The result is an extraordinarily wide panel of musical landscapes for a single electronic album.

“We’ll be dancing, on another planet”

Jarre’s talent transpires in those collaborations as he lets the artists he works with appropriate themselves the tracks to a point where his magical, futuristic world blends in perfectly with the rock voice of Townshend, the dreamy choirs or M83, or the fast and aggressive beats of Boys Noize, in order to create a whole new landscape made of two musical universes, which sounds credible, solid and fascinating.
The listeners are taken aboard futuristic airships zooming through the sky on the diptych “Automatic” with Vince Clarke, time machines that may or may not work (as it always feels futuristic, it’s hard to say) with Boys Noize, on nocturnal excursions alongside Air on the nightly ballad “Close your Eyes” (that sounds a bit like Kavinsky), but also through a weird, distorted and comfortable dream with Laurie Anderson on “Rely on Me”, deserted, once utopian cities with Moby on “Suns Have Gone”, and even in space on “Stardust” with Armin van Buuren.
It sounds like them, it sounds like Jarre, but it also sounds like something new, unexplored yet. And exciting.

“I loved everything there was here”

The most obvious issue that such wide collaboration project can create is that there is no common denominator on the album. The songs can feel unrelated, and the progression through the album is chaotic as the rhythm changes without coherent progression. We skip from buzzing, electrifying tracks with Boys Noize and Gesaffelstein to moody ballads in minor chords with Moby and Air without warning. Even the name Jarre gave his album, “Electronica”, feels that way: you can hardly get more generic, more “various artists compilation” than that.

But this is the risk, and the feature of most collaboration albums. Yet, the fact that Jarre has given one song to each artist makes each song special: indeed, there can’t be any album filler when for each of the band or artist having participated, their song was THE song. Thanks to this approach, each song on Electronica 1 is filled with the same amount of magic and talent, no song is weaker or less interesting than the next.

All in all, what Jarre has achieved with this album is to renew his style by working with some of the most talented elements of the modern electronic scene (and not only), and the result is both exciting and of a rare quality: a style that screams “Futurepop”, that the fans of the likes of Covenant and VNV Nation should no doubt appreciate.

Killer songs:
“The Time Machine”
“Suns Have Gone”

Review by Marie Lando.