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.

Live – August 2013

Five of the best gigs coming up in the next month or two:

Erasure

Just a couple of concerts over the summer, in Atlanta Georgia (America), a festival in Mexico, and part of the big B.E.F. concert in Sheffield in October.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Fuck Buttons

Excellent noodlers and definitely worth seeing live. After the Green Man festival this week, you can catch them from September in Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Nottingham, Leeds, Norwich, Brighton, London, Paris, and Hamburg.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Gary Numan

He’s a pop star! With a pilot’s licence! And he’s back on the road in the USA and Canada from the end of August, and then the UK and Ireland from November.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Front Line Assembly

Touring Germany, Czech Republic, The Netherlands, and the UK this month, and well worth seeing live if you haven’t caught them before.

Full list of dates at Songkick

Peter Hook

Still unwilling to bury the hatchet with the rest of New Order, Hook is resolutely touring, with festivals over the summer, and then the UK, USA, and Canada in September, then back to the UK and Ireland through to the end of November.

Full list of dates at Songkick, split between him solo, and him with The Light.

 

Preview – Fuck Buttons

Here – have a special bonus preview! This week is so overflowing with excellent and intriguing new releases that we’ve slotted in an extra one for you!

Fuck Buttons are particularly fascinating, making regular EPs of experimental grimy electronica for several years now. From their latest album Slow Focus, this is The Red Wing. Out this week:

Chart for stowaways – 15 June 2013

The albums this week look a little like this:

  1. Marsheaux – Inhale
  2. I Monster – Swarf
  3. Kevin Pearce – Pocket Handkerchief Lane
  4. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine
  5. Air – Moon Safari
  6. Zero 7 – Simple Things
  7. Saint Etienne – Casino Classics
  8. Skywatchers – The Skywatchers Handbook
  9. Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport
  10. Enigma – A Posteriori

More next week!

The London 2012 Olympic Games

Music and sport have had plenty of odd crossovers in their time, but also a lot of very good crossovers too (New Order spring to mind).

So in this post I’m not going to wax lyrical about how well Team GB (+NI) got along, because frankly I live overseas and don’t have a telly, so try as I might I haven’t actually seen very much of it. I can’t even tell you how much I liked the opening or closing ceremonies, because at the time of writing I haven’t seen either of them.

What I can do, though, is heartily recommend that you buy an album called Isles of Wonder, which is available all over the place. I haven’t got around to buying it myself yet (frankly it’s ridiculously expensive in the USA) but just look at that track listing! Mike OldfieldUnderworldThe Chemical BrothersUnderworldPet Shop Boys, more UnderworldFuck ButtonsU2, oh look, Underworld, and then some more Underworld.

It looks as though it’s particularly worth buying if you like Underworld.

You can get Isles of Wonder on CD from Amazon UK, or as a download from iTunes among other places.