Jean-Michel Jarre: Electronica 1: Time Machine

The synth legend’s starry set pushes all the right buttons.

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The first instalment of this two-part project sees Gallic synth guru Jean-Michel Jarre getting together with a host of collaborators who’ve made a name for themselves in electronic music, or are currently in the process of doing so. The list of 15 co-conspirators spans over four decades one way or another, with emerging artists such as Gesaffelstein and Little Boots lining up alongside veterans including Tangerine Dream and director/composer John Carpenter, and even the likes of Moby, and 3D of Massive Attack, who now – somewhat scarily – fall into the ‘old hands’ category.

The Tangerine Dream and John Carpenter tracks are predictable highlights, the former’s Zero Gravity being an archetypal piece of old school electronica and one that Jarre purists will most readily warm to. Poignantly, it was one of the last pieces that TD founder, the late, great Edgar Froese, actually worked on. Carpenter’s outing, meanwhile, the vaguely sinister A Question Of Blood, is exactly what we’d expect, and that’s no bad thing: Carpenter’s shadowy style is offset nicely by Jarre’s melodic melodrama.

Less obvious but just as captivating are tunes such as Close Your Eyes with fellow countrymen AIR (lush and charming), Rely On Me with the ever-interesting Laurie Anderson (inventive and strangely infectious) and Watching You with Massive Attack’s Robert ‘3D’ Del Naja (dynamic and driving). All three are stand-out tracks. The melodic and upbeat Glory with fellow French outfit M83 can probably be filed along with AIR, while Bristol duo Fuck Buttons deliver Immortals, a surprisingly epic and insistent slice of imperiousness.

The first instalment of his most ambitious effort ever.

There are many other points of interest including the classic synth sounds of Automatic with Depeche Mode co-founder Vince Clarke, the marvelously maudlin Suns Have Gone with Moby, and the pure pop curveball that is If..! with Little Boots (aka Victoria Christina Hesketh), formerly of Dead Disco. More curious still are both the album’s quirky little coda The Train And The River with Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang, and Pete Townshend belting out an impassioned vocal on Travelator (Pt. 2) as Jarre weaves his magic across the remainder of the soundscape.

Given that Jarre is a keen observer of all that’s new in his chosen field, producer/DJs also get a look in, with Germany’s Boys Noize, The Netherlands’ Armin van Buuren, and France’s Gesaffelstein all blending their strengths with Jarre’s signature sounds.

When Part Two finally arrives next year it will complete what is arguably Jarre’s most ambitious effort ever.