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^^.  

Please join the 1537 Vs. Lego racial stereotyping campaign now.

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.  

894 Down.  

*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.

13 thoughts on “Les Synthé Analogique

  1. The album sounds interesting, thanks for the review.
    Jean Michel Jarre is the son of Oscar winning composer Maurice Jarre – Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, A Passage To India, etc., by bringing up his AND Michel’s music as a Malibu Postman in the ’80s he graciously invited me in to a white room with a white piano overlooking the Pacific where I was allowed to watch him compose music for the Harrison Ford film Witness – it was a special time.
    Oxygene was a major break-thru album for the electronica genre and is still one of 00individual’s faves.
    Wishing you well.

    1. Wow, that’s a great story. I love his work on LOA in particular. JMJ really is a sound of my childhood and this latest release is a worthy one.

      Sadly I would imagine a lot of your old round has been devastated by the fires now.

      1. An unbelievable 600 homes – Malibu’s only 26 miles of beach and a dozen miles inland thru the mountains so it was devastating – Malibu is noted for “stars and celebs” but it is mostly good folk with horse property who’ve been there forever and like the ruralness.

  2. Sounds like you have a trapped nerve, pal. Maybe need to try solve that by throwing yourself into the floor or against a wall. Not sure it’ll work, but it’ll likely take your mind off it.

    Anyhoo, I like this Robots Don’t Cry. Maybe Blade Runner’s loss can be Terminator Whatever’s gain.

  3. So there I was, sitting at the keyboard writing some stream of consciousness shit about Eno’s Music for Installations and something in the ambient fog evoked Jean-Michel Jarre so I streamed off on that tangent when a little notice appeared, top right of the screen, alerting me to a new 1537 post which I promptly clicked on because frankly trying to write about 5.5 hours of ambient music was making me a bit woo-woo and tickle me ivories it’s a J-M Jarre review!

    Tears in the rain. Superb.

    My shoulder is sore too, but not as bad as yours, I suspect.

    1. Thanks Bruce – I love Eno but I often find myself wanting something a bit simpler (maybe that’s why Ambient 1 will always be my fave one of his).

      JMJ was just the ticket, I have enjoyed this LP an awful lot so far (Infinity notwithstanding!).

      Shoulder is a mystery to me, just woke up almost unable to move my arm last Sunday. Bloody painful!

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