dinsdag 3 mei 2016

Jean Michel Jarre - Electronica 2 - The Heart of Noise

Intensively as the "Electronica 1" promotion campaign had been, as quickly it seemed that the gathered attention faded out. But within the last years this became an over-all trend within the music industry.
Most of the media attention appeared at the same time, within a significant period of three months around the release date.
But luckily, in time, on May 6th, the second chapter of Jean Michel Jarre's monster project - named "Electronica 2 - The Heart of Noise", is finally being released.

The current promotion campaign for the second leg seems to have a different approach than previous campaign. With the lack of specific promotion for the album release (with the exception of some loose announcements), it seems Jarre's management and record label rely on the success of "Electronica 1", cross-promotion by the collaborating artists, and the upcoming concert series, to trigger the promotion and sales of "Electronica 2". At least, so far.
Suddenly, two weeks in advance of the album release, promotional activities and appearances in the media are being continued again.

A single that hits the top of the charts for a couple of weeks might has been the only thing that wasn't included in the expected recognition for this project, commercially seen. And I am not really sure if a certain single with aimed hit potential is included into "Electronica 2 - The Heart of Noise". But who actually cares, artistically-wise? The project still remains huge and unequaled on this scale, and in fact most of the music is great.
And then there are the upcoming intensive series of concerts to look forward to, announced as "Electronica World Tour", where the concept also gets shape live on stage.

The webshop of Dutch record store Sounds in Venlo already exposes 30-seconds previews of each of the new album's tracks, on March 14th.

And here is the track by track, containing another 15 collaborations, as well as 3 solo tracks:

Erwan Castex (Rone).
1) The Heart of Noise - part 1 (featuring Rone) - 4'26

Before this collaboration I had never heard of Rone. Which might be slightly remarkable because he has achieved quite a lot since his musical debut in 2008.
The 35 years old Parisian Erwan Castex moved to Berlin in 2011 to gain new inspiration.
And right before Björk's "Stonemilker" in 2015, Rone released the first video clip in virtual reality, making him a pioneer in the field.
Jarre and Rone were brougth together through their connection with the French record label InFiné.

The second phase of the “Electronica”-project starts with heart beats, followed by a recognizable collage of vintage Jarre sounds. A Tambourine leads the lingering 3/4 measure, after which the main theme is being introduced.
This theme (of which Jarre recorded two solo interpretations) is divided over three tracks on this album. “The Heart of Noise – part 1” is the most dreamy variation of the three.

“The Heart of Noise – part 1” emerges flawless into “The Heart of Noise – part 2”.

2) The Heart of Noise - part 2 - 4'10
The melody line of "The Heart of Noise - part 1" is the same as in "The Heart of Noise - part 2". Although the tempo increases and a nice beat supplies this second part with the necessary energy, the dreamy character from previous track is maintained.

The on February 25th published track story for "The Heart of Noise" suggests that both “The Heart of Noise – part 1” and “part 2” were included into the collaboration of Jarre and Rone. However, the credits from the second part only mention Jarre's name.

So far the introduction for “Electronica 2”.

Neil Tennant & Chris Lowe
(Pet Shop Boys).
3) Brick England (featuring Pet Shop Boys) - 4'01

March 31 - one day before the official release of the Pet Shop Boys' new album "Super" - the premiere of the collaboration between Jean Michel Jarre, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe was broadcast on BBC Radio 2.

While the first two tracks on this album clearly serve as introduction, the collaboration with the legendary British synth-pop formation, with "West End Girls", "It's A Sin" and "Go West" amongst their many hits, marks the real start of "Electronica 2". The mood is set!

A lo-fi 8 bits arpeggio can be heard throughout the entire track. The nice old-fashioned Pet Shop Boys-sound and catchy melody lines blend perfectly with Jarre’s typical lead solo sound and vocal samples from the “Chronologie” era.
PSB analyst Wayne Studer wrote an interesting article about the explanation of the lyrics.

“Brick England” is the first track that is leaked through an unofficial channel, two weeks in advance of the release.

Julia Holter.
4) These Creatures (featuring Julia Holter) - 3'40

Julia Shammas Holter lives in Los Angeles and with her 31 years she is the youngest artists to be heard on "Electronica 2".

After the introduction of the arpeggio, the processed layered vocals are working disorienting, by walking out of the rhythm of the track. This makes "These Creatures" interesting from the very first beginning.

Although there might not be happening that much within this track, the strength of it lies in its dreamy atmosphere. An atmosphere which sounds like a mix of the music of Allison Goldfrapp and Lana del Rey. Step by step the addition of a couple of more layers result into a warm sound. 

Primal Scream.
5) As One (featuring Primal Scream) - 3'58

Primal Scream's current formation consists of five members. Since their establishment in 1982 the formation changed regularly. Throughout the years the musical style of the band evolved from psychedelic to garage rock to dance music. This last style is exactly in the line of the track on this album.

The sample at the start of “As One” reminds of the first sample of Jarre’s masterpiece “Ethnicolor”. The rest of this track isn’t even any close to the epic track from 1984, but develops rather fast into an highly danceable track.

The collaboration with the Scottish indie-rock band sounds like a mix of “Chronologie 4” and “Hey Gagarin”. The high solo vocal reminds of the solo vocals featured in Pet Shop Boys' "Go West".
Around the 3 minutes mark an hip-hop rhythm is being introduced during the break. Hereafter the previous rhythm is being continued until the end.

If you subscribe for the www.jeanmicheljarre.com mailing list, you receive a preview from this track from April 22nd.

JMJ & Gary Numan.
Here For You (featuring Gary Numan) - 3'59

From the first note of "Here For You" the unmistakable sound of Gary Numan can be heard. With a strong reference to his big hit "Cars", by means of synthesizer sounds, after which the unique vocal sound sets in. In one way or another not always in tune, but this makes Gary's vocal rather ingenious.

This track exposes a very clear balance between Numan's as Jarre's input. Which is not quite unexpected. If you followed both gentlemen's social media last year, it didn't get unnoticed that a close friendship was established.
And this is reflected very clear into the final result of their collaboration.

JMJ, Hans Zimmer
& Armin van Buuren.
7) Electrees (featuring Hans Zimmer) - 4'10

Hans Zimmer is an renowned Hollywood film music composer since the early 80s, where he worked a lot with synthesizers and electronics to establish music pieces and scores like "Rain Main".
Later on his scores became more bombastic and orchestral, and he wrote soundtracks for for example "The Dark Knight", "Gladiator", "Inception" and recent masterpiece "Interstellar".

The collaboration between Jarre and Zimmer, "Electrees", sounds electronic, but has an orchestral approach.
The intro contains a lot of typical Jarre sounds and effects. Pads and strings slowly increase the atmosphere, kettle drums are being introduced, and a female girls choir sets in. As the piece progresses, everything becomes more cinematic. You feel like you are in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, sailing towards the movie's subtitles. A wonderfully modest music piece which works towards a climax in a subtle way.

JMJ & Edward Snowden.
8) Exit (featuring Edward Snowden) - 6'19

Rumours were going that E.S. (how the collaborator was announced first) were probably the initials of whistleblower Edward Snowden. April 11th this was definitely confirmed, when the cover artwork for an exclusive Record Store Day 7 inch was revealed.
With the exception for his passion for electronic music, Snowden is in no other way directly connected to this musical genre (so wasn't Lang Lang on "Electronica 1").
And this must be the only collaboration that wasn't established in person. In the week before the single release - when the track was already recorded - Jarre got the only opportunity to meet Snowden in Moscow in secret.

With Jarre's outspoken support to arrange political asylum for Julian Assange, it is clear that there is also given a political statement with "Exit". Something which actually seems to fit perfectly into another concept of the "Electronica" project: today's social aspects and issues. And the fact that "big brother is watching us" all the time, is part of this.
(Political) statements within Jarre's music are not new.
One of the reasons that Jarre was the first Western musician who performed in post-Mao China, back in 1981, was the fact that his instrumental music was free of political statements. At least this is what people thought. Years later, Jarre added lyrics to his tracks, like "Revolutions", "Gloria, Lonely Boy", and also "Exit", to make statements.

The track itself is a enormous energetic techno track, which reminds me of the track "Metamorphoses", which Jarre performed during his concert in Avignon in 2001 (and a year later in Bourges) . Complemented with quotes about privacy by Edward Snowden.
The song ends with a clear actual message: "And if you don't stand up for, then who will?"

The accompanying video clip is put online on April 28th.

JMJ & Merrill Beth Nisker (Peaches).
9) What You Want (featuring Peaches) - 3'27

What You Want" is announced as first single from this project, on March 11. The entirely pink colored sensual video clip consists of 90 degrees flipped lips of the singer, reading/singing the accompanying displayed song text.
The 47 years old Merrill Beth Nisker is known for her provoking and to sex related songs. This is also applied on this track, which resulted into a kind of sensual atmosphere comparable with Madonna’s “Justify My Love”.

Whether you like the track or not, its strength is the minimal and simplistic approach, which makes it - just like most of the other tracks from the "Electronica" project - accessible for a large audience.

JMJ & Sebastian Tellier.
10) Gisele (featuring Sebastien Tellier) - 3'43

The 41 years old Frenchman Sébastien Tellier is a multi-talented DJ, singer and actor. In 2008 he represented France at the Eurovision Songfestival in Belgrade. Contentious, because it was the first French contribution in the English language.

The nice poppy rhythm and the synthesizer melody line (which reminds of “Living On Video” by Trans-X) are extended by energetic arpeggios, which results into a driven track.
The in first instance slightly distorted and with French accented sung vocals, emerge into auto-tuned vocals.

Alex Paterson & Thomas Fehlmann
(The Orb).
11) Switch on Leon (featuring The Orb) - 4'43

British psychedelic ambient techno dub group, The Orb (currently with members Alex Paterson and Thomas Fehlmann), were part of the birth of the ambient house wave in the early 90s.

It never became clear whether The Orb's "Toxygen" from 1997 was a rejected production for one of Jarre's remix projects, or if it concerned an ode to the Frenchman.

"Switch on Leon" points to a ground breaking period of electronic music history, and winks to Leon Theremin, inventor of the Theremin, as well as the "Switched on" classical music pieces interpreted by Wendy Carlos on the first analog synthesizers.

A spoken Russian text introduces the track. After the introduction of bells and a bass line, also English spoken quotes about the Theremin (but also the Moog synthesizer) are passing. This happens in a way which is so characteristic for The Orb. The track consists of fragments, which melt together perfectly. This causes "Switch on Leon" to be fascinating from beginning until the end.

The fact that this is an ode to the from origin Russian Leon Theremin, is being illustrated by the typical singing saw sound in the background, created with the first electronic music instrument, dating from 1919. And for a change, this almost antique device is not played by Jarre himself this time. Halfway a break beat sets in. At the end of the track the enchanted singing of the Theremin integrates into a sea of sounds. The bass part shows up once more, to finally dissolve into this same blend of sounds.

For me this is without doubt one of the most brilliant tracks on “Electronica 2”.

Moritz Friedrich (Siriusmo).
12) Circus (featuring Siriusmo) - 3'09

The Berlin-based Moritz Friedrich releases music since 2000, under his artist name Siriusmo, and made a large amount of remixes for for example Boys Noize, Gossip and Scissor Sisters. Besides he works as illustrator and graffiti artist.

A gated sequencer loop which sounds like a composition of Bach, marks the introduction of the track and works towards the melody line. The careful construction and happy melody in major key, causes “Circus” to be very infective (despite the fact that I prefer minor keys in music). During the first break there are to be heard vocoder sounds, like in “Calypso 3”. As soon as the theme is being reintroduced, more layers are being added, which results into a real interesting listening experience.

Dieter Meier & Boris Blank (Yello).
Why This, Why That and Why? (featuring Yello) - 3'58

When Boris Blank and Carlos Perón formed Yello in the late 70s they realized that there was needed a singer. Dieter Meier joined the Swiss duo. Perón left the band in 1983 to focus on a solo career. Hereafter, Meier and Blank had big successes with "Oh Yeah" and "The Race". The band mainly makes use of Boris Blank's extensive sound library of over 100.000 sounds.

July 2015 Dieter Meier performed an acoustic version (guitar and vocal) of "Why This, Why That and Why?" during an interview at the Swiss BalconyTV. This seems to have been evolved into the version that can be heard on "Electronica 2".

During this slow track, one of the most brilliant voices of the pop music - that from Dieter Meier - recites a text about questions which are being asked during specific periods in life. In between the lyrics a synthesizer choir is to be heard. This track could have easily been a track from one of the more recent Yello albums.

Jeff Mills.
14) The Architect (featuring Jeff Mills) - 4'43

Techno DJ and producer Jeff Mills is born in  Detroid in 1963.
The core of his setup is a Roland TR-909.
The fact that he makes use of an average of 70 lp's an hour, shows that he puts as much as possible material and influences into his music. This is also exposed clearly in "The Architect". Besides his varied productions, he also performed with a 70 piece orchestra, in 2006.

First there are sounds which could come directly from an industrial working place. The tempo of the rhythm increases like an accelerating train. There can be imagined a construction of an architectonic creation.

Orchestral samples introduce the beat around the 2 minutes mark. The elements which are to be heard contain samples and sound effects, en result into an exciting journey. One of the finest and most interesting tracks on “Electronica 2”, which lasts too short in my opinion.
The only really disturbing thing is the high frequency that is to be heard in between 1:06 and 2:30.

Cyndi Lauper.
15) Swipe To The Right (featuring Cyndi Lauper) - 4'54

“Swipe To The Right” refers to the needed movement to select a candidate at dating apps like Tinder.
The track is constructed slightly like “Travelator – part 2” (with Pete Townshend) from “Electronica 1”, with the biggest difference that this track sounds like a real smashing club-hit.

The track - which really grows after a couple of times - is represented by the very recognizable and crackling vocal sound of the singer of “Girls Want To Have Fun” and “True Colors”. A vocoder (probably sung by Jarre) sings the title track various times during the chorus.
The end of the track is an instrumental intermezzo containing interesting chord changes. Here are to be heard various elements from the time of “Oxygene”: an analog drumcomputer, Eminent strings and familiar wind noise.

JMJ & Christophe.
16) Walking The Mile (featuring Christophe) - 4'52

When listening to the 30 seconds lo-fi fragments of "Electronica 2", this track immediately got my attention. A dark sound, lingering beat, and the recognizable high vocal sound of Christophe (whose real name is Daniel Bevilacqua).

In the 70s Jarre and Christophe already did a couple of productions together, of which "Les Mots Bleus" is perhaps most famous. It's awesome to hear that certain collaborations are still working today.

“Walking The Mile” sounds ominous and dark and could easily be a track by Massive Attack from the period of “Angel”. Christophe sets in with his recognizable high voice after a vintage sounding intro. Continued by strong melody-lines, as well as strange sounds in the background. At 1:13 a spaghetti-western guitar sets in, after which various guitar sounds and effects are to be heard within the breaks. The outro contains fragments harmonica, percussion, breaks and other sounds. Without any doubt one of my favorite tracks on this already very strong album.

17) Falling Down - 3'23
“Falling Down” starts with the intro that can be heard during the video trailer of “Electronica 2”. An analog sequence, extended with strings and a melody lead in the background. De vocal line is sung by a vocoder. This light track works towards the last track of “Electronica 2”.

18) The Heart of Noise (The Origin) - 2'39
This was the first track that was recorded for the “Electronica” project. In the end Jarre decided that this would be the best track to conclude the project.

The theme is exactly the same as on the first two tracks from this album. The biggest difference between “The Heart of Noise – part 2” and “The Heart of Noise (The Origin)” is the rhythm, which results into “part 2” being very danceable, and this last variation could be categorized as ‘chill-out’. In the end, all these three tracks are different mixes of the same material, and not necessarily different tracks. However, this is a well thought about closing track for the “Electronica” project.

And so we also close the second episode of the “Electronica” epos. Maybe in contradiction with my expectations, “Electronica 2 – The Heart of Noise” became quite another album than “Electronica 1 – The Time Machine”. In one way quite logical, according to the individual songs to be heard on both albums. But if we compare both albums, it feels that for the first part there was still being sought after the shape that is present more clear in the second part. And despite the widely varied collection of music pieces, everything on this album seems to lay slightly closer to each other than was the case on previous one. Which again is Jean Michel Jarre’s most important achievement for this project.

Another noticeable point is the musical additions by Jarre. The 30 different collaborations for this project could already be called a piece of musical history, exposing a wide spectrum of elements from the last century of the development of the electronic music.
The fact that Jarre also lets return various elements of his entire own works within the different tracks, even creates a better focus on the time lapse that is being bridged with this project. With this, Jarre adds more of his own identity to the whole than is being noticed in first instance.

Indeed we can discuss about the artists who are not included in this project, such as previously announced David Lynch, Mirwais, Trent Reznor and his rumoured 'replacement' DeadMaus, but also uncountable other artist that were optional for this project (included the impossible to achieve suggestions by fans). Jarre deliberately chose the current 30 collaborations for "Electronica". And I think this resulted into a very well-balanced and top of the bill collection of artist related to electronic music. Varying from legendary and well-known, to relatively unknown names, which couldn't have demonstrated much better the history and current status of electronic music.

It only remains a big question if the collaborations with Pete Townshend, "Travelator - part 1" and "Travelator - part 3" will ever see the light.

While Jean Michel Jarre fans from all over the world are preparing for the upcoming concerts, we are also silently dreaming of "Electronica 3". Which seems not to be quite unrealistic, because in the meanwhile the collaborations just keep going on: Jarre participated on Christophe's new album, and he is spotted in his studio with the no one less than Damon Albarn, for a new project of Gorillaz.

Special thanks to Sony Music Nederland.

- Wikipedia;
- "Electronica 2" track stories: https://www.youtube.com/user/JeanMichelJarreVEVO

Photos and pictures:

- All used photos were taken from the social media of Jean Michel Jarre and the collaborators on "Elektronica 2 - The Heart of Noise", Google, and printscreens of the track story videos;
- Album and single artwork are copyrighted and property of Jean Michel Jarre en Sony Music.

The original Dutch version of this album review is written exclusively for www.jeanmicheljarre.nl.
Read it

Read my review of "Electronica 1 - The Time Machine" here.

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