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.

Chart for stowaways – 23 July 2016

Possibly not much change from a couple of weeks ago, but here are this week’s top singles:

  1. Pet Shop Boys – Twenty-Something
  2. Jean-Michel Jarre & Pet Shop Boys – Brick England
  3. Clarke Hartnoll – Better Have a Drink to Think
  4. I Monster – The Bradley Brothers…
  5. Jean-Michel Jarre – The Heart of Noise
  6. Massive Attack – Ritual Spirit EP
  7. Clarke Hartnoll – Single Function
  8. Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
  9. Moby – Slipping Away
  10. Dirty Vegas – Let the Night – EP

Artist of the Week – Moby

The scheduling must have shifted a bit at some point, as this one is listed as the first artist of the week, but was definitely broadcast first, around 4.20am (!) on the third week of the radio show Music for the Masses, back in late 2004.

As before, apologies in advance for any inaccuracies, errors, hyperbole, or plagiarism in this piece – it was written twelve years ago and intended to be read out loud…

I want to kick off by explaining a little bit about [Moby‘s] musical career. He first picked up the name Moby as a child, being the great great grand-nephew (or something) of the Moby Dick author Herman Melville. During his relatively troubled childhood, he became passionate about music, particularly punk and John Lydon‘s Public Image Limited, among others.

Whilst at college, he formed several punk bands, none of which saw any great success, but in the late 1980s he moved to New York, and started DJing and making music for small underground record labels. In particular, he came up with a number of pseudonyms to become the driving force behind Instinct Records, who would go on to release several compilations of his early material.

After several underground successes, he first became known in the UK with his phenomenal hit Go, which drew heavily on Angelo Badalamenti‘s score for the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks. After a few false starts, the single reached number 6 in the UK, and was a huge hit across the world.

During the early 1990s he would remix countless major acts, including Michael JacksonPet Shop BoysBrian EnoDepeche  ModeErasureThe B-52s, and Orbital, and in 1993 he was signed to the London-based label Mute Records.

His first proper album Everything is Wrong would explore and thoroughly question the different aspects of dance music, and would yield single after single in the UK, all of which were substantial hits. The follow-up though, 1996’s Animal Rights would throw dance out of the window, and turn to hard rock instead.

In 1997, following his fantastic reworking of the James Bond theme, he released a compilation of film tracks, entitled I Like to Score, and following this, he would see his greatest success ever, even if it took rather a long time to grip the world’s consciousness.

The first single from Play was Honey, and was released in mid-1998. At this time the album was already completed, but was delayed as he didn’t have a US record company. On its original release in the UK, it peaked at number 33 and in the US it only scraped the top 100. However, after prostituting every single album track, b-side, and remix onto films and adverts, he finally had his first US hit, and climbed his way up to the top of the UK charts. The album would eventually become so successful that no fewer than eight singles were released in the UK.

The follow-up, 2001’s 18 was seen by many as a disappointment, perhaps simply because it wasn’t adventurous enough. It’s a beautiful album though, and still yielded several hit singles and topped the charts again in the UK. After seeing underground success with his Voodoo Child side-project, his next proper album is due in the spring.

Retro chart for stowaways – 14 April 2007

These are the top ten albums from nine years ago this week:

  1. Client – Heartland
  2. Air – Pocket Symphony
  3. Jean-Michel Jarre – Téo & Téa
  4. Onetwo – Instead
  5. Marsheaux – Peeka Boo
  6. Sarah Nixey – Sing, Memory
  7. Tracey Thorn – Out of the Woods
  8. Faithless – Forever Faithless – The Greatest Hits
  9. Moby – Go – The Very Best of Moby
  10. Faithless – To All New Arrivals

Retro chart for stowaways – 8 October 2005

Here are the top ten singles from a decade ago this week:

  1. Röyksopp – 49 Percent
  2. Andy Bell – Crazy
  3. Sugababes – Push the Button
  4. Goldfrapp – Ooh La La
  5. Liberty X – Song 4 Lovers
  6. Mylo vs. Miami Sound Machine – Doctor Pressure
  7. Röyksopp – Only This Moment
  8. New Order – Waiting for the Sirens’ Call
  9. Basement Jaxx – Do Your Thing
  10. Moby – Dream About Me