Jean-Michel Jarre's Crosses Generations with Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise
French synthesist Jean-Michel Jarre’s second volume in his collaborative, cross-genre, cross-generational series, Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise, continues the themes of Electronica 1: The Time Machine. But unlike that album, which featured many musicians who came of age with Jarre like Tangerine Dream, Laurie Anderson and John Carpenter, on volume 2, he works with musicians who he influenced, such as Hans Zimmer, The Orb and Gary Numan, as well as artists who came along well after the 1970s.
Famed for his 1976 album Oxygene and several recordings and city-wide performances, Jarre’s wide-ranging net pulls-in pop star Cyndi Lauper as well as Techno pioneer Jeff Mills. The results can feel exhilarating one moment and forced the next. The Lauper collaboration, “Swipe to the Right,” is a bit too overt in its timely references. Yet it has a wonderful vocal performance from Lauper in a pure pop piece, something you don’t often hear from Jarre. Mills on the other hand, takes Jarre into beat heavy terrain although he avoids the bass drum thump, in favor of a more complex and shifting rhythmic palette topped with strings.
Jarre’s song with electro-pop icon, Gary Numan, “Here for You,” is pure 1980s, Replicas-era synth, with Numan clearly at home in Jarre’s world. Hollywood film giant Hans Zimmer taps his own deep electronic roots for their moody, decidedly un-orchestral, “Electrees.” It’s not The Lion King.
The gem of Electronica 2 is his collaboration with Julia Holter, one of the few tunes that sounds like the musicians were actually together. Holter is a singer with an innocent voice, that she uses like an electronic instrument. Jarre provides a simple, flute-like sequence and Holter lifts it into the heavens.
Unlike Electronica 1, Jarre leaves a few tracks for himself. “The Heart of Noise 2” slides out of his collaboration with French synthesist Rone on part 1. It’s pure Jarre magic: throbbing rhythms, and a simple yearning melody, barely a few notes but full of analog melancholy. But whether he’s playing solo, or with Pet Shop Boys, Jarre’s distinctive sound is the signature stamp on Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise.