Film scores

Album review: Electronica 1: The time machine (Jean Michel Jarre – 2015)

Jmj_eproject

My love for instrumental music didn’t start with film music. It evolved naturally into that but those of you who have read my thoughts over the past couple of years know that I have a soft spot for electronic music, preferably from the 80s. Before hearing Hans Zimmer’s magical sounds from that period, I started with iconic pioneers and artists like Mike Oldfield, Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre. And is this nostalgia and love for that period and that music that lead me to make an exception from film music and review something as a nod to my childhood and to what started my love for instrumental music: I will write my thoughts on Jean Michel Jarre’s new album “Electronica 1: The time machine”.

Could there be a more appropriate title? For me, this is what music is all about: a time machine, the best way to travel in time. Jarre returned to his roots with this first album in many years and not only did he do that but he also collaborated with similar mad electronic geniuses from the past 30 years: Vince Clarke,[8] Gesaffelstein, M83, Armin van Buuren,[9]John Carpenter[10] Robert “3D” Del Naja of Massive Attack fame, Pete Townshend (from The Who) and the late Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream. Not only that but he also worked with Hans Zimmer for the second volume of the album and there’s your connection with film music. Jean Michel Jarre wanted to tell the story of electronic music since he started until right now and for someone like me, this is a wonderful gift.

This nostalgia trip wasn’t without bumps for me. There were times when I closed my eyes and found myself near my old cassette player and other times when I couldn’t understand the music. This time travelling album is an experiment and JMJ just went with it. I can’t connect with cues like “Glory” or “If…” but this so doesn’t matter when I hear what attracted me to Jarre’s music 25 years go in the two “Automatic” cues written with Vince Clark. This is the heart of the sound I love so dear. I liked the “Suns have gone” melody written with Moby because it bridges past and present very well.

The album is very clearly delimited to me: there are pieces I adore and pieces I don’t want to hear again. The peaks are high and the valleys are forgettable. But it’s all worth it when I hear all encompassing songs like “Conquistador”, written with Gessafelstein, a French techno producer, a song which is like a celebration of 1983 – 1984 electronic music, combining Jarre with Depeche Mode and Tangerine Dream. Tangerine get their own collaboration on the magical “Zero gravity”.

I missed Jean Michel Jarre. I had gotten used to listening to my favorite albums of his but in the past 20 years I had trouble finding something to connect with. This all changed with the release of “Electronica 1” and I can’t wait for part 2 next spring. Welcome back, legend!

Cue rating: 87 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 41 / 69

Album excellence: 59%

Highlights:

“Automatic. Pt. 1” (with Vince Clarke)

“Automatic. Pt. 2” (with Vince Clarke)

“Conquistador” (with Gesaffelstein)

“Zero Gravity” (with Tangerine Dream)

“Stardust” (with Armin van Buuren)

“Watching You” (with 3D of Massive Attack)

“A Question of Blood” (with John Carpenter)

“The Train & The River” (with Lang Lang)

About the author

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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