In Jean-Michel Jarre‘s long and illustrious career, the first few years of the twenty-first century are perhaps the oddest. Having launched the new millennium with a massive live extravaganza at the pyramids in Giza, he released his first fully vocal album Metamorphoses in early 2000, but it didn’t perform well commercially. He therefore appears to have retreated into himself, recording Sessions 2000 (an album of electronic jazz, released in 2002), Interior Music (an advertising commission), Experimental 2001 (an unreleased album), and this, Geometry of Love.
Released without full credit (it just says “project by Jarre” on the sleeve) and with a pixellated photo of his then-girlfriend’s lower regions on the cover, it’s a bit of an odd one, but it was actually just electronic chillout music, commissioned for a club in Paris.
What it is, though, is a sweet and consistent album of soft, gentle, atmospheric music, starting with Pleasure Principle, with gentle strings and percussive sounds. Geometry of Love (Part 1) is more electronic, with soft warping sounds throughout, and Soul Intrusion is a mellow wandering piece, driven by seemingly neverending arpeggios. The beats and melodies, when they arrive, are unintrusive.
From the album and track titles, and the sleeve, it’s tempting to wonder whether this album is supposed to be an homage to the act love, or perhaps just something to be played when things get a little fruity. But there’s little in the music itself to back this theory up – while it might be more appropriate than, say, Calypso (Part 3), the best this album could really offer in that context would be pleasant background music.
Which is, perhaps, where this album fails a little – it’s all very nice to listen to, but there aren’t really any big hooks – if this was the first Jean-Michel Jarre album you had ever heard, it would be difficult to imagine you rushing out to buy more. The closest it comes to a hook is the more melodic Electric Flesh, but even that would sound a little dull next to Oxygène (Part 2) or something. It’s fine for that to be the point, but I would be very surprised if many people in the world other than me are listening to this album right now.
Interestingly, though, the album is contemporary – many of the sounds and musical devices used were common in electronic music at the time. It doesn’t even particularly sound like the work of Jean-Michel Jarre, which is both impressive and a shame at the same time. But the fact that he was still able to keep up with the times after a career of forty years at the time, is impressive, to say the least.
Whatever you might be doing in the foreground, it’s still playing in the background. Skin Paradox is a very pleasant ambient piano piece, while Velvet Road would have sounded great in the background of a television show, if only the producers had ever come across a copy. Near Djaina is another beautiful piano piece, and then finally Geometry of Love (Part 2) brings everything back together, with perhaps the liveliest sounds and beats on here.
Geometry of Love is a good album – it’s a very good album, actually, despite the lack of strong hooks, and honestly despite any real clarity of what it wants to be or why it exists. Ignore all of that, and try to just enjoy another forty minutes of great electronic instrumental music from the master of the form, and you will be well rewarded.
Since this post was originally written, a new reissue of Geometry of Love has appeared on CD, download and for streaming. You can find it here.