Following in the footsteps of Giorgio Moroder’s star-studded comeback, fellow electro wizard Jean Michel Jarre has also assembled an impressive line-up for his first new studio effort in eight years, Electronica 1: The Time Machine.
But whereas Moroder’s unexpected return largely relied upon today’s synth-pop sirens, Jarre’s features a far more eclectic list of guest artists that have inspired him over the past four decades, ranging from legendary horror film director John Carpenter (the ominous instrumental “A Question of Blood”) to superstar DJ Armin van Buuren (the four-to-the-floor trance of “Stardust”) and concert pianist Lang Lang (the classical-electro of “The Train and the River”).
It’s little surprise, therefore, that Electronica 1: The Time Machine lacks cohesion. But although its “anyone’s welcome” approach doesn’t always pay off – The Who’s Pete Townshend and propulsive techno were never going to mix, for example, and neither does the jarring AutoTuning of Massive Attack’s 3D on the downbeat “Watching You” – it’s never less than intriguing.
None more so than on “Rely on Me,” a bizarre collaboration with performance artist Laurie Anderson which sounds like a meditation tape voiced by a talking robot, with the likes of “Zero Gravity” (the last track recorded by Tangerine Dream’s late frontman Edgar Froese) and ambient electronica of F*** Buttons hook-up “Immortals” also adding to the record’s mysterious sci-fi vibes.
However, the long-awaited follow-up to Téo and Téa also provides several more melodic pop moments worthy of a place on a Jean Michel Jarre best-of. “Close Your Eyes” is a gorgeously tranquil New Age-inspired hook-up with Air which could have been lifted from the duo’s seminal Moon Safari; the seductive synth-pop of the Little Boots-fronted “If..!” sees Jarre give Moroder a run for his money, while collaborations with M83 (“Glory”) and Moby (“Suns Have Gone”) prove that few can make electronic pop sound so cinematic.
Electronica 1: The Time Machine ultimately feels more like a compilation album designed to be cherry picked from, but it’s one which proves that despite recently reaching the age of 67, Jean Michel Jarre’s best days are far from behind him.