Chart for stowaways – 9 November 2019

Here are the top albums this week:

  1. Hot Chip – A Bath Full Of Ecstasy
  2. Underworld – Drift Series 1
  3. Armin Van Buuren – Balance
  4. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Ghosteen
  5. Zero 7 – Record
  6. Röyksopp – Melody am
  7. Gary Numan/Tubeway Army – Replicas
  8. Gary Numan – The Pleasure Principle
  9. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – Souvenir
  10. The Beloved – Single File

Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine

I don’t know, you wait eight years for a new Jean-Michel Jarre album, and then three turn up at once. Sorry, I know that’s an obvious thing to say, but it is amusingly apposite. The fun but definitely questionable Téo & Téa (2007) left a slightly iffy taste in a lot of people’s mouths, and apart from the re-recorded and questionably legal version of Oxygène that followed the same year, there was then an extended silence until 2015.

What he was doing, it turns out, was working with every other electronic musician under the sun to create a two volume album, Electronica. The first opens with the sweet title track The Time Machine, with Boys Noize, and then comes one of the opening singles, Glory, with M83. So far, so pleasant.

Both of these albums have been criticised for being a bit disjointed, which, while not entirely unfair, seems a bit of an odd thing to say – of course they are, they’re effectively compilations of collaborations. But the sequence is generally logical, and there isn’t really anything particularly bad on here, so it’s hard to be too critical.

Fellow French musicians Air turn up next, for Close Your Eyes. Some tracks seem to have a lot more of Jarre, and others have a lot more of his collaborators on them, and in general, this one ends up sounding like Air might if they employed Jarre as a producer. That is to say, pretty good.

The first time you can really call something here “brilliant” is on the two parts of Automatic, both collaborations with Vince Clarke. For Clarke, this sounds a lot like his recent solo and collaborative electronic projects, but Jarre’s influence is clearly audible here too, particularly in Part 2, and both halves of the track really are excellent.

The increasingly great Little Boots turns up next, pretty much the only musician other than Jarre to make the laser harp part of their live show, and their collaboration is If..! (yes, two dots). While it’s certainly true that Jarre did something on this one, it’s difficult to know exactly what, but it’s a great song nonetheless.

They keep coming – Immortals, with Fuck Buttons, is an excellent meeting of minds, and while Suns Have Gone with Moby may not be the high point of either artist’s career, you have to be glad that it happened.

It is undeniably an odd list of collaborators though – which is not to say that Gesaffelstein shouldn’t be here – after all, why not? Few might put him in their top thirty living artists of all time list, but the resulting track Conquistador is pretty good. This isn’t so true of Travelator (Part 2) (there doesn’t appear to be a part 1), with Pete Townshend, which I’m not convinced does the legacy of either great musician any particular favours.

That isn’t true of what is apparently Edgar Froese‘s last recorded work, Zero Gravity, which after so many decades finally brings us the joint credit of Jean-Michel Jarre and Tangerine Dream, and it’s ever bit as excellent as it should be. It’s also nice to see Jarre revisiting his earlier musical partner Laurie Anderson for the decidedly odd Rely on Me.

Where these two albums both go a little astray for me is with the number of tracks – they’re varied, but after thirteen pieces of music and with no end in sight, you’re always going to be a little weary. Towards the end of the first volume, we get a fun trance excursion with  Armin van BuurenStardust, followed by the weirdly dubby Watching You, with 3D from Massive Attack.

Right at the end, John Carpenter turns up for the appropriately creepy A Question of Blood, and finally pianist Lang Lang accompanies an atmospheric piece on album closer The Train & The River. It’s a long, varied, and complex album, but in general it stands well on its own, and if you consider yourself a fan of any sort of electronic music, you should probably be a fan of this.

You can find part 1 of the Electronica project at all major retailers.

Preview – Faithless

If you had failed to notice the appearance of Faithless‘s’s new remix compilation Faithless 2.0, then your cave-hiding skills are clearly to be applauded. Celebrating their twentieth year of making music, it features classics revisited by an odd assortment of names, including Armin van BuurenTiëstoAbove & BeyondEric Prydz, and loads of others, followed by a disc of originals which looks rather better than their previous compilation Forever Faithless.

This is Bombs 2.0, remixed by Claptone:

The Grammy Awards 2014

American pop and rock (OK, mainly country and hip hop) snorefest The Grammys took place a couple of weeks ago, but the list of awards is so long that it normally takes me a while to put together a response. So here, in the middle of Awards Week 2014, is my post about the Grammy Awards.

The ceremony took place in Los Angeles on January 26th, and it was definitely a night to remember. If you were crazy French robots Daft Punk, anyway, who carried away the Album of the Year and Best Dance / Electronica Album for Random Access Memories and the Record of the Year and the tenuous Best Pop Duo / Group Performance for Get Lucky with Pharrell Williams, as well as Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical.

In the vaguely interesting dance categories, Best Dance / Electronica Album boasted four other disappointed nominees: Disclosure, Calvin Harris, Kaskade, and Pretty Lights. The Best Dance Recording award left Calvin Harris and Kaskade equally disappointed, as well as Duke Dumont and Armin van Buuren, while Zedd featuring Foxes went away happy (well, I assume they were happy with having won it).

The Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical (remember there are always so many great classical remixes that they get their own category) featured nominations for Delerium and Michael Logen‘s lovely Days Turn into Nights, remixed by Andy Caldwell, as well as remixes by Alesso, Sultan and Ned Shepard and Photek for OneRepublic, Bruno Mars, and Bob Marley and the Wailers respectively. The winner was Cedric Gervais‘s remix of Summertime Sadness by Lana del Rey.

In the Best New Age Album category, Brian Eno‘s Lux was fighting Peter Kater‘s Illumination, Kitaro‘s Final Call, and R. Carlos Nakai and Will Clipman‘s Awakening the Fire, but the final winner was Laura Sullivan, with Love’s River.

David Bowie was nominated for Best Rock Performance for The Stars (Are Out Tonight) and Best Rock Album for The Next Day but failed to win anything (that’s technically known as a “snub,” I believe).

Which is about all I can think of to say. In other news, the remaining half of The Beatles reunited because it’s fifty years since something relating to them and America happened, enabling them to receive one of seven Lifetime Achievement Awards. The others were nabbed by someone called Clifton Chenier, The Isley Brothers, Kraftwerk, Kris Kristofferson, Armando Manzanero, and Maud Powell. It would be a lot easier to get excited for Kraftwerk if they were in better company.

Thomas Newman‘s Skyfall soundtrack won the concisely named Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Song Written for Visual Media (for Adele‘s Skyfall). The ever-contemporary Herb Alpert grabbed the Best Pop Instrumental Album for Steppin’ Out, and Ziggy Marley beat Sly & Robbie to take the Best Reggae Album for Ziggy Marley in Concert.

The full list of nominees and winners is kindly provided by The Telegraph here.