I have not been well recently, I have suffered an impingement of the nerve in my mighty left shoulder which has led to a week of agony, not being able to move around much, barely being able to sit still, not being able to sleep properly* and some very heavy duty meds have left me feeling alternately woozy and down in the dumps.
I tell you this, partly to show you that I, the all-seeing inimitable 1537, can have the failings of a mere mortal at times and also to explain why, for comfort possibly, I reached back to one of the sounds of my childhood and almost against my better judgment bought a brand-new nostalgic LP; Jean Michel Jarre Equinoxe Infinity.
Describing Equinoxe Infinity as the ‘long-awaited sequel to 1978’s classic LP Equinoxe‘ is to stretch a point, as we Welsh say, s’étendre jusqu’à l’infini. Given Mr Jarre’s own, rather patchy** history of Oxygene sequels my expectations were very low and would have been to all but the most committed Jarreheads out there.
Still, persuaded by the LP art, which I really like, the odd cartoon-y watchers solidified into weathered Easter Island style phenomenon sitting in a natural landscape, here I am.
First up, there are changes afoot here, Jean Michel has given us track titles (swoon). Worry not though, gentle electronic enthusiast, each track has also been given a movement number too. The titles do make sense in the context of the individual tracks, witness the sadness percolating through ‘All That You Leave Behind’.
Forsaking his occasionally Jarreing^ adoption of breakbeats and other more ‘modern’ tropes of dance and electronic music (after all the man was at least in the room when they were all invented), JMJ goes back to what he knows and does best on Equinoxe Infinity. Which means we get all those wondrously effective washes of analogue synths, more arpeggiators than you can shake le stick at and all those primary colour melodies he excels with.
That he is able to do so without it sounding like a retrograde step is a tribute to Jarre’s musical vision, then and now and to the remarkable effectiveness of his original recipe. This is not an LP in thrall to the original Equinoxe but one inspired by it and designed to sit comfortably alongside it.
Take the grand opening statement of ‘The Watchers’ which is every bit the epic statement of intent it should be. The music thrums and sweeps in a decidedly filmic manner, you can almost see the swell breaking on a suitably alien beach. There are enough grace notes referenced from earlier works on this and gently pulsing third piece ‘Robots Don’t Cry’ to give a pleasantly familiar sensation without any sense of copying. It’s a neatly judged trick.
The highpoint of Equinoxe Infinity for me is the remarkable ‘All That You Leave Behind’, a beautifully atmospheric piece with a yearning melancholy. Tears in the rain. Such is either the nature of the music, or the meagre limitations of my own imagination that I cannot help but see this album as the soundtrack that Blade Runner 2049 should have had, rather than the heavy-handed dog’s dinner it ended up with^^.
The closest track to the original Equinoxe is ‘Machines Are Learning’, which could nearly have slipped without notice into the original running order, well almost, the Zoolook-style vocal sample gives away the passage of time a little. The furthest from the original style is probably the forthright ‘The Opening’, which sounds like the theme tune for an upbeat sci-fi series. I am also very partial to the way in which LP closer ‘Equinoxe Infinity’ echoes the end of ‘Equinoxe (Part 1)’, it is a little pat on the head for fans.
All of which is great but honesty compels me to tell you that Equinoxe Infinity is smuggling a real dud in its’ ranks. The LP was only released 2 days ago and I got it on the day of release, but I have come to the realisation, dear reader, that side B opener ‘Infinity’ may actually be the worst piece of music in my whole collection^*. It sounds like a piece of incidental music created on a ZX Spectrum for a cheap sitcom when the characters go abroad on holiday, just not as good. Only my shoulder injury prevented me from repeatedly ramming a spoon into my ears to make the sounds go away. True story.
Anyway, back on Planet Positive I was really pleased with Equinoxe Infinity, it did exactly what I wanted it to do for me and more. This is a far better LP than a sequel to a 40-year old LP has any right to be and a far better album than I would have expected it to be in the cold light of day, all nostalgia aside; managing to be very much of 2018.
And for all you analogue synth fetishists out there, Mr Jarre is kind enough to list all the instruments he played in the making of the album, all 37 of them, for your delectation. So if you are the sort who gets his, or her, rocks off to this sort of thing and knows an Electric Mistress from an OP1 then all your needs are catered for right here. I would like to stress that 1537 is a non-judgmental space, so we will pretend you despicable perverts should not be shunned on sight and treat you sickos as though you were actually normal.
*as all the laydeez in the house will remember, I usually sleep on my side – sleeping flat on my back has been almost impossible.
**I’m being charitable there.
^see what I did there?
^^sorry Zimmer fans, some of the music works very well in the context of the heavy visuals but it is a shockingly bad listen without them. Particularly the dead inclusion of the Elvis and Sinatra songs without any context/editing. Dialogue from the film could have shored things up.
^*yes, I would rather listen to this.