Jean-Michel Jarre - Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Jean-Michel Jarre - Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise

by Gerry Hathaway Rating:5 Release Date:2016-05-10

There are few artists as inextricably linked to their own respective glory years as Jean-Michel Jarre. Ever since pushing the boundaries of electronic music in the late 1970s with Oxygene (1976) and Equinoxe (1978) he has been, perhaps not unfairly, judged against these two seminal works. While his innovative large-scale outdoor performances always managed to break attendance records, subsequent album releases became less compelling. Magnet Fields (1981) and Zoolook (1984) yielded cold, clunky sounds typical of early sampling while Rendez-Vous (1986) and Revolutions (1988) suffered from thin, dated synth patches and pompous orchestral bombast. Jarre would later recapture the warm analog textures and filmic atmospheres of his early groundbreaking material once more with Oxygene 7-13 (1997) before another decade of forgettable releases.


Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise closely follows the format of its predecessor The Time Machine (2015), boasting 15 guest artists that include retro class acts (Gary Numan, Pet Shop Boys, Cyndi Lauper) as well as modern electronic producers (Siriusmo, Rone, Sebastien Tellier). Most of the collaborations are solid and appealing, but where Jarre shows up on the recordings is anyone’s guess. Here For You is a catchy electro-goth track featuring Gary Numan’s unmistakable croon while Brick England is a summery italo disco thumper guided by the pop charms of Pet Shop Boys.  The Architect, Circus, and Heart of Noise Part 2 are propulsive dance tracks in the tradition of classic ‘90s House, while The Heart of Noise Part 1 and Electrees (with Hans Zimmer) consist of grand emotional film score passages offering moments of tranquility for what is primarily a dance record. There are a few spotty vocal performances from Cyndi Lauper (Swipe To The Right) and Peaches (What You Want), neither of which compliment the rest of the record. The fragile and airy These Creatures (with Julia Holter) is an album highlight that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Twin Peaks soundtrack. Jarre finally shows up solo singing through a robotic vocoder on the driving dark wave of Falling Down and mournful epilogue The Heart of Noise (The Origin).


The biggest issue with The Heart of Noise (as with its predecessor) is the lack of identity attributable to Jarre himself, making it difficult to discern who performed on each track. The inclusion of so many distinctly different guest artists gives the record a disjointed feeling versus the high concept and razor sharp focus of Jarre’s ‘70s output. Like the first installment, the strength of the album lies in the instrumentals, which recall the expansive beauty and anachronistic quality of Jarre’s finest work. However, the divergent vocal tracks dissolve any possibility for a uniform musical concept. Instead, the record feels like a random compilation of both modern and classic electronic artists – leaving the listener confused as to why they’re all appearing on the same album. Ultimately, the bulk of Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise is a mixed bag that isn’t likely to be enjoyed in its entirety. Still, there are a handful of excellent tracks worth seeking out from this collection.

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