Philly

Jean-Michel Jarre
Electronica 1: The Time Machine
(Ultra Music ***1/2)

At 65, Jean-Michel Jarre is a peculiar legend. He’s a godfather of the populist melodic-electronic movement (1977’s dreamy album Oxygène established his place), but one whose hypnotic rhythms and funky grooves weren’t quite dancey enough to give him Kraftwerk/Giorgio Moroder-level fame. Francophile synth pop, breathy sampled vocals – he did all this practically before Daft Punk was born, but without so much gloss or fanfare. Now, eight years after his last album, Jarre and some famed followers and friends (Pete Townshend, Little Boots) join forces with him for high-wire atmospheres and mumbling pulses.

As with his film-composer father, Maurice Jarre, there is cinematic sweep to every moment here, be it intimately and ominously crepuscular (as you find on tracks with Laurie Anderson and Depeche Mode’s Vince Clarke) or openly bright and jamming (“Stardust” with Armin van Buuren, or the title track with Boys Noize). Jarre and Air perform a sexy, slinky, whispering “Close Your Eyes,” and he lets the arpeggios rise and fall like dark river waters on “Suns Have Gone” with Moby. For all these collaborative efforts – often powerful and often different from their originals, as with Townshend’s “Travelator (Part 2)” – Jarre’s spooky genius stands out.
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