Less than six months after the release of Jean Michel Jarre’s Electronica 1 comes Electronica 2, the second album to feature Jarre collaborating with a mix of dance legends and music icons. My review of Electronica 1 was, for the most part, positive (and deservedly so) with my only real gripe being the exclusion of some artists it would have been interesting to hear collaborations with. Has Jarre included these artists as per my request? Is another album of collaborations too much? Should there be an Electronica 3 album? First and foremost, no, he hasn’t collaborated with Daft Punk or Aphex Twin, but, there is an equally impressive set of artists on this album to rival Electronica 1. Pet Shop Boys, Yello, The Orb, Primal Scream and Gary Numan rub shoulders with Cyndi Lauper, Jeff Mills and Hans Zimmer (amongst others) on an album which totals 18 songs and close to 75 minutes worth of music. As with Electronica 1, you are definitely getting your moneys worth of content and artist.
Kicking off with title track The Heart Of Noise and split into two parts (first part Jarre with Rone whilst second part has Jarre on his own) we are in very familiar Jarre territory. The deep pulses, the washy keyboards, the dream like tune, the Blade Runner background world and the inclusion of rolling drums ease us into a more energetic second part with saxophone straining keys front and centre. Brick England has The Pet Shop Boys bring their iconic vocal style and insanely catchy chorus talent to a mix of electronic voices, dance beats and harsh synths…a perfect mix of English and French techno. Julie Holter’s delicate and playful vocals give These Creatures an innocent energy perfectly accompanied by rushing keys and soothing chords that match her range. As One has Primal Scream bring a 90’s sound together with an Air like vocal (think Sexy Boy) and summer feel into the fray…summed up in two words; extremely cool! Then we have a legend…Mr Gary Numan. Here For You is classic Numan from the very first note. That plodding beat, the cold sound and the almost uncaring vocal lead us to an incredible chorus exploding with feeling and hope bringing the first third of the album to a close in style.
Track seven Electrees, introduces Hans Zimmer soundtrack sound to Jarre’s unique sound perfectly. Gorgeous strings and electronic noises complement each other with the inclusion of the standard Zimmer female choir and superhero feel…outstanding! Unfortunately, after an insanely good first seven tracks, comes Exit. A hyper rave mess of sound that eventually slows when a speaking vocal from Edward Snowden discussing technology and privacy comes in only ending so the hyper rave sound can return…for me, it doesn’t work and is the weakest song on the album. What You Want (with Peaches) and Gisele (with Sebastien Tellier) sadly continue this route for tracks that don’t quite work. What You Want injects a hard-core techno/jungle sound and broken up feel whilst Gisele, although pleasant enough, feels very much filler. It’s down to The Orb then to get the album back on track with Switch On Leon and boy, do they deliver. Spoken word samples over a deep set of keys, swirling sounds and noises combine with Jarre at his most recognisable and an ambience The Orb are masters at.
Out of the last third, we have the best song on the album; Why This, Why That and Why? from Yello. Always a unique tour de force in music, Yello (and Jarre) give us a beautiful sounding simple track…a combination of haunting spoken word vocal, deep synths and soaring keys. A slow sparse beat accompanies the song and the inclusion of a chorus of female voices add another layer of depth and power. The Architect with Jeff Mills drops in some traditional violins and cellos and is very Mills (remember the song Children), Cyndi Lauper proves she has still got attitude and range as her vocal twists and turns against (ironically) a very Pet Shop Boys song called Swipe To The Right, and, Falling Down has Jarre on his lonesome with borderline Nine Inch Nails beats, a synthesised vocal (from himself) and a standard techno/dance sound chock full. Final track The Heart Of Noise (The Origin) (again just Jarre on his lonesome) is dark and actually, very Aphex Twin…maybe the route Jarre will take next?!
Overall then, despite some fillers, Electronica 2 is still very much quality over quantity. There are some incredible collaborations on this album and not just from artists you would expect. Lets also not forget that Jarre is only a few years off 70 and yet, he is still making music to this level. As a whole, the Electronica project has been a success and produced two albums of music which have been (for the most part) respectful to not only the collaborator but also to Jarre himself. If I had to be picky about the entire thing, then I would say that you could have removed maybe six tracks from the combination of both albums and been left with a classic.