This release, working title “E-Project”, has been rumored about long time before the actual release in October 2015. Prepared over a long period of time, “Electronica” is an ambitious project presented in two separate volumes in which 30 collaborators in total are involved, with “Volume 2” to follow in spring 2016.
“Electronica 1: The Time Machine” is a sonic travelogue in which Mr Jarre wanted to tell a story regarding electronic music history and its legacy from his point of view and experience, from when he started to nowadays. So he set out to compose for and collaborate with an array of artists who he admired for their singular contribution to the electronic genre.
As such, 16 electronic pop songs (a few with vocals) here blend contemporary sounds with classic ones and typical Jarre sonic trademarks. The latter already happens on the catchy, in-your face opening title piece done with Boys Noize (where elements of “Rendez-Vous” are aptly integrated) and the rather euphoric/dancy “Glory” (with M83). Next to the vocoder vocals on the rather robotic sounding and laid-back “Close your Eyes” (made with Air) we hear pleasant Theremin sounds as featured on “Oxygene”, while the excellent and energetic “Automatic” (with Vince Clarke) moves from a brief atmospheric entrance to a tantalizing upbeat piece, shifting to a melodic poppy song on the second part where the realm of ‘90’s Jarre surfaces.
It’s a pity things shift to a superficial and uninspired level on “If…” (with Little Boots), fortunately putting things right with the instrumental “Immortals” (made with Fuck Buttons). It’s only a brief positive moment as the collaborations after that with Moby and Gesaffelstein don’t turn out appealing, the first one vaguely reminding of a German singer working with Schiller while the second one (“Conquistador”) turns out bold and rather experimental. Next in line is “Travelator” with Pete Townsend, an energetic dance-clap composition with screamy, distorted vocals not leaving a positive vibe either.
The TD-collaboration “Zero Gravity” offers partly sequencer-spiced music turning out better, but it still feels a bit superficial and isn’t more than average. It turns worse though on the stupid, dreary and awkward sounding piece done with Laurie Anderson. Straightforward melodic dance with Magnetic Fields-elements enter the stage on “Stardust” (accomplished with Armin van Buuren), followed by a bleak, experimental and chaotic piece composed with Massive Attack.
So is there anything good left? The composition done with John Carpenter is more favorable but I wouldn’t say it appeals a lot due to its dry sonic content and mediocre melodic outcome. The release isn’t saved either by the ramblings on the closing piece with pianist Lang Lang. Here, Jarre pairs “Rendez-Vous” flavors with his classic textures but with no constructive outcome whatsoever.
Overall and despite the various efforts, the mixed-bag “Electronica 1: The Time Machine” proves disappointing. It’s neither fish nor fowl, the worthy tracks being the first five.
You can see what reviews I have done of this artist on the Jean Michel Jarre artist page
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