Lee Speaks About Music… #112

Equinoxe Infinity – Jean Michel Jarre

JMJ - EI

Introduction…

Jean Michel Jarre is back again with another new album and Equinoxe Infinity is the sequel to his 2nd album Équinoxe that was released 40 years ago back in 1978. Depending how you look at it Equinoxe Infinity its either his 20th or 15th studio album, but in my book it’s actually his 15th studio album. Even though he did make a couple of albums back in 1972 & 73 before Oxygène got released in 1976 they was made for music libraries and not international releases.

You also cannot count the 1983 album Musique pour Supermarché to which only 1 copy was ever pressed and the master plates were deliberately destroyed afterwards :))))) and both Electronica 1 & 2 are collaboration albums. But Wikipedia has never really been the full shilling but it can be resourceful at times.

I have to confess that when it comes to electronic music there is only a few artists in this world who have really grabbed my attention enough to make me actually go out and buy them. Electronic music can be a bit like Sci-Fi films to me these days, to which I have lost the appetite for and have not had any real interest in watching them for more than a decade now. Though I have over the past 7 years heard quite a bit of electronic music on Soundcloud by unknown artists, and I do not mind it in small doses and having put some of my own amateur efforts of music on there and getting to know quite a few people from around the world with its social community, it even encouraged and spurred myself on, to do a bit of it too in the past.

But listening to electronic music as always been like a phase thing in relation to all the other music I listen to such as prog rock, rock, traditional folk, folk and pop sort of thing. There are only certain phases when I can sit down and listen to an albums worth of electronic music, and those phases can quickly go out for months on end before it gets another short spasm of attention for me to listen to it.

Oddly enough from the time we hit the 80’s and the charts was full of pop bands playing all that retro keyboard orientated music along with new wave and artists like Howard Jones, Duran Duran, The Pet Shop Boys, Gary Numan and all that. All that stuff just made my blood curdle and I completely switched off listening to the charts for a decade. I honestly had never heard so much dribble in all my life regarding pop music and it just never spoke to me at all. Still to this day it doesn’t either.

The 80’s has always been the decade I detested the most, simply because music was changing drastically and even all those artists I loved in the 70’s were no longer churning out the same style of music I loved them for in the first place. Even prog rock bands like Yes and Genesis had gone pop, and rock bands such as Judas Priest and all that had gone into more commercial rock. The 80’s was a funny decade for music though oddly enough it was also the decade that I listened to more electronic music, and I mean electronic music and not that crap in the charts that people were singing a load of drivel too :))))). “Like to get to know you well?” I don’t bloody think so mate :)))))))).

The 80’s I could say was my biggest phase for listening to electronic music and even though the German band Tangerine Dream had been out for over a decade since they started out in the late 60’s. It was in the 80’s that they were actually my favourite group. To be honest I was into Tangerine Dream back in the mid 70’s but it was not until they made the album Stratosfear in 1976 that they first started to really impress me. It was in that same year that Jean Michel Jarre also released Oxygene that also impressed me. Both were extremely clever at layering music.

But both of these artists were not my first experience of listening to electronic music, and just before I got into both of those I heard the Japanese electronic genius Isao Tomita. This guy blew my mind and actually introduced me to classical music, something of which I have never been that fond of, and still prefer him playing it even today than any orchestra. It was actually through hearing Tomita that even made me go out and buy some classical music. I quite like classical music, but it will get way less of a spin on my turntable so to speak, even in relation to electronic music to which I can only play in certain phases.

The only other band I like in electronic music is another German band and that is Kraftwerk. It also took me a lot longer to get into their music and I did not really until the 90’s. But basically I got into all this music from a friend of mine who I have known since the early 70’s. But effectively the reason why Tangerine Dream was my favourite group in the 80’s was because that is the time they had Johannes Schmoelling playing for them, and back then their music was more prog rock than Yes and Genesis were in the 80’s :))))). I would even say Jean Michel Jarre was too.

The Packaging & Artwork…

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The CD comes in a very well made 4 panel DigiPak with a sturdy plastic tray to hold the disc firmly in place. It also comes with a slotted panel for you to store the booklet. The booklet is an 8 page one that contains the usual credit and production notes and some pictures and that is about all it contains, and it does not come with any informative information about the making of the album or anything.

The Artwork.

The artwork was by Filip Hodas based on the original artwork work of Michel Granger who designed the original 1978 albums artwork. I quite like the artwork especially being much more of a larger and visual presentation of the Watchers that were quite small on the original artwork that was done for Equinoxe back in 1978. The album has also been released with two different artwork covers and being as I ordered my copy from Amazon you was never going to really get a choice of which cover to choose, and it was always gonna be pot luck as to which one you actually got.

Covers

Both covers look GREAT! to be honest, but if I had the choice of choosing like you would in a record shop. I would of chosen the artwork on the left. Though no doubt I would of most likely ended up paying a couple of quid more for it in a shop and not got it for the price of £9.99 which is a GREAT! price. The cover on the left is meant to show mankind in peace with nature and technology and the other on the right depicts a picture of fear and distortion with machines taking over the world.

Equinoxe Infinity Released Editions…

Equinoxe Infinity was released in 4 editions and oddly enough on Amazon the actual MP3 Digital Download of the album costs £1 more than the CD and is priced at £10.99. I have to say that has got to be the most stupidest thing I have ever seen and I personally do not think any Digital Download is worth more £5 in reality. You would have to be completely BONKERS! to pay the extra pound for the download when you can have the physical product which gives you loads more quality, and at least you are getting something you can hold in your hand for your money.

The vinyl edition comes with 1 LP and is currently priced at £21.99 on Amazon. I am so glad I no longer collect vinyl and I certainly do not think it should cost any more than a CD either. No doubt today’s vinyl collectors are being well ripped off with the ridiculous price of the things. The final edition is the Box Set which is priced up at £69.99.

Box Set

This package comes in a shiny black box and you get the albums Equinoxe & Equinoxe Infinity on vinyl and CD. Plus it comes with 4 large artwork posters and a card for you to download the MP3 digital download of the 2 albums.

The Album In Review…

Equinoxe Infinity by Jean Michel Jarre was released on the 16th November 2018 and my copy arrived on the day of it’s release. The album contains 10 instrumental tracks that all seamlessly blend and join into each other and are spanned over an overall playing time of 39 minutes and 49 seconds. Like I said earlier the album is a sequel to his 2nd album Équinoxe that was released 40 years ago back in 1978 and I personally feel that Jarre has not only worked around some of the melody lines from the original album but also incorporated and fused together some of the music from Oxygene and a few other albums to get what we have here.

Back in 1997 when Jarre done his first sequel to his first album Oxygene which was Oxygene Parts 7 – 13 to which I was very impressed with that album and no doubt it sounded like an excellent sequel. Although some 19 years later when he made Oxygene 3 in 2016 I felt he had lost his way a bit and it was an half decent album, but far from a good sequel. I also felt the same about Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells 3 and in all honesty he had completely lost the plot regarding that being any form of a sequel, and you could even say it was more of a sequel to his song “Moonlight Shadow” from his Crises album back in 1983 than what it ever was to Tubular Bells.

Even with films it’s very hard to make a good sequel and just like Jarre and Oldfield some are good with the 2nd sequel, but very rarely can they keep that consistency and make a third. Somewhere along the line they are bound to lose the plot. To be honest I personally felt that throughout Jarre’s career between 1976 – 1997 he had been pretty much consistent with the 9 studio albums he had put out over those years and the only real dent would of been on the album Waiting for Cousteau to which the albums self title track was some near enough 47 minutes long and effectively watching paint dry is a damn site more interesting than that garbage :))))).

Oxygene Parts 7 – 13 was probably the last album of Jarre’s that really touched my soul and after that he decided to try and change his style and do something more differently. It’s not unusual for any artist to try something new and let’s face it you can get fed up of doing the same thing all the time. For example Jarre did have a newer approach to his music back in 1984 when he done Zoolook and used a lot of sampled sounds and voices to create it, and that was perhaps modern but I absolutely love that album. But the change he made in the year 2000 with the album Métamorphoses may very well have been inspired to try and keep in the limelight with all the modern day dance music that was coming out by other artists at that time.

I personally think that Métamorphoses is not a bad album even though it’s not like its predecessors and it steps into trance and dance music that was becoming more popular around that time. Though personally modern day trance and dance is not my cup of tea at all, but the fact that Jarre’s style and presence still articulated it’s way in the album made it more acceptable than the crap others were doing with it to which I detested and it’s certainly not for my ears. But then Jarre goes from one extreme to another with the album that followed it in 2002 entitled Sessions 2000 and once again I got more excitement from staring at a wall and watching paint dry :))))). Honestly not one single track on that album said a bloody dickie bird to me and it was just dreadful.

The 2003 album Geometry of Love was a much better effort I felt and both this album and Sessions 2000 is very much Jarre trying to do something more in the way of Jazz. Though Jarre’s levels of skills as a player in all honesty are not cut out to make any Jazz musician I am afraid and I would not exactly say he was a pianist either. I admire the guys creativity though but I can assure you he is no Keith Emerson or Rick Wakeman for that matter never mind a skilful jazz pianist. But I quite like Geometry of Love and it’s a much better effort. I also quite like his 2006 album Téo & Téa which may not be everyone’s cup of tea either, but its a pretty decent effort for my ears even though there was a lot of controversy over it.

In 2007 Jarre put out Oxygène: New Master Recording which was basically him playing live in his studio at home, and after that you never really heard anything from him apart from the odd live concert he played right up until 2015 when he put out Electronica 1: The Time Machine and in the following year Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise. Both albums contained collaborative works done with various other artists neither of which impressed me at all. It may of been that he had been out of action for quite a while that he decided to work with other artists to make his way back into the limelight sort of thing, but to be honest Jarre has mostly always been in contention with it and has always been one of the more popular electronic artists.

Musicians & Credits…

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Composed produced and mixed by Jean Michel Jarre at JMJ Studio. Production Assistant Stephane Gervais. Technical Assistant Patrick Pelamourgues. Pre-Mastered with the new FiDef algorithm. Mastering by David Perreau for Yakuda Mastering 2018. Artwork by Filip Hodas based on the original artwork work of Michel Granger. Portrait by Peter Lindbergh. Graphic Design by Eric BDFCK Cornic.

Musicians:

Jean Michel Jarre: Yamaha CS80. ARP 2600. VCS 3. AKS Eminent 310. Roland Paraphonic 505. Minipops. Mellotron. Korg PA 600. Korg Polyphonic Ensemble. Korg MS20. GR1. Erica Synths Modular System. OP1. Modular Roland System 500 1 & 8. Roland Boutiques. Nordlead 2. Nord Modular. Small Stone. Electric Mistress. Big Sky & Capistan. Moog Sub 37. Moog Taurus 1. Animoog. Arturia ARP 2600/CS80. Omnisphere. NI Kontakt. NI Reaktor. Dune 2. Legend. Spitfire. Boom. Replica XT. Satin. Vahalla. Digisequencer.

The Album Tracks In Review…

Like I said earlier Jean Michel Jarre has not really touched my soul since 1997. But Equinoxe Infinity is an album that very much sees Jarre back to his very best and no doubt this is quite a good sequel to that 1978 album Equinoxe. Although some may not see the album as the perfect sequel, simply because there is no doubt some melodies and FX that came from Oxygene and other albums thrown into the pot here. Some reviewers are even stating that Jarre may very well have used the actual parts from those albums and mixed them in without playing them again and threw in some newer sounds to make the album we have here. Though I doubt that is the case and even if he did, all I can say is that he done a bloody good job of it :)))))).

Jarre spent a year working on the project for the sequel of his classic 1978 album and quite often he will draw his inspiration from the visual side of things that reflects in the albums artwork, and the music will effectively work as a Soundtrack to it. This short video shows you the man himself speaking about it all.

Jean Michel Jarre has always been one for the latest technology over the years though I have to say when 5.1 surround sound was introduced in 1994 he was nowhere to be seen regarding that technology. It even took him a decade to realise it even existed and it was not until 2004 that we got to see the first 5.1 release with a new compilation album he made entitled Aero. He was so impressed by 5.1 Surround sound that he invested some money into Bang & Olufsen or some other company to build an Home Cinema Set up to which he helped design and used to sell on his own website.

We even got to see more 5.1 mixes on his live concerts though over the last decade he seems to have lost his way a bit. I was even disappointed that when he did release Oxygene 3 in 2016 he also released a box set of all 3 Oxygene albums but in stereo only. Had he have given them a 5.1 mix I would of brought the box set, but no way was I buying something I already had. I also noticed that with the box set he released a couple of months ago in September entitled Planet Jarre. That he had given 12 tracks a 5.1 mix and even  “Opening” from this new album was one of them. But they was in the form of a 5.1 Digital Download only and not put on a disc.

Something tells me that Jarre lost quite a bit of money having that Home Cinema System built and he may have lost interest with 5.1 surround sound completely. Not even the box set for this release comes with a 5.1 mix and it’s a shame because Aero and his live DVD’s Jarre in China and Live from Gdańsk have superb 5.1 mixes. Equinoxe Infinity is very much and album that is worthy of a 5.1 mix and should of been given the 5.1 treatment. Though no doubt a lot of Jarre’s music has GREAT! atmosphere to work well in Stereo.

So now let’s take a look at the individual tracks of the album as I go through them in my review here, and this is an album that comes with 10 movements that all have titles to them rather than Equinoxe that came with 8 parts.

Track 1

The album kicks of with the first movement “The Watchers” to which Jarre describes were looking at us from the cover of the first Equinoxe album, now they are rising again and may be from a very ancient past and they are also timeless and we can feel that they could still be here after we have gone. It’s the opening scene of a movie of which we still don’t know how it will end is how the man himself sees it. Musically it may have a touch of Vangelis with some of its main melody lines on the synths and even the pulsating bass sequence gives it that feel too. Though both Jarre & Vangleis have always used the iconic Yamaha CS80 and I would not personally say Jarre is doing a rip off job here at all.

As with some of the old vintage synths he is using, he is also using the soft synth versions of them too that Arturia had developed and he’s mixing both analog and digital synths on this album. Some of the sounds we have in this track are also familiar to some of the material from Revolutions and Rendez-Vous and the vintage synths and this album certainly sounds like he did back in 1976 when he first became more widely popular with his classic album Oxygene. This opening track certainly sets the scene we have here and gives you the feel that your in for one terrific journey.

Track 2

Equinoxe Infinity is a nonstop album and each track blends into one another perfectly and seamlessly like one big symphony. Only each movement has its own moments in it which keeps the listener very attentive and focused to what’s going on has it transgresses along. It’s a very addictive album and even after my first spin of the album I immediately hit the play button again and played the album again and could not put it down. The album very much can raise the game in all the right places throughout the way it flows from track to another and this second movement “Flying Totems” picks the pace up very nicely even if it’s not flying at that much of a faster pace as its title may suggest.

You will instantly notice the bass synth sequencing on this track is quite reminiscent to the original 1978 album. Even some of the flourishes with layered FX sounds are a bit like we got on Oxygene in some regards. It’s main theme is more bold and though many feel its got another Vangelis thing about it, this is perhaps more reminiscent to the stronger themes we got on albums such as Rendez-Vous and Chronologie. Jarre’s counter melodies, layers and textures are very colourful throughout and this is an excellent piece of work that lifts things up a bit very well.

Track 3

The second longest track on the album is up next and this third movement is entitled “Robots Don’t Cry“. Judging by the album cover and this video that was made for it they perhaps do not get a chance to when they get their heads blown off :)))))).

It’s a piece that uses a lot from the Mellotron and it uses some of the chord progression you would find on Equinoxe and Oxygene along with the bossa nova beat that was also very familiar with those couple of albums. Apart from the lead melody lines and some sound textures it very much flows and feels like something from those albums too. According to Jarre he only recorded this track once and in one go, including the melody and the rhythm track. It’s another really GREAT! track.

Track 4

The 4th movement “All That You Leave Behind” has a really GREAT! build to it and as it builds from the beginning you get some of the textures that were familiar on albums such as Zoolook and even Metamorphoses that was much later. But as it transcends along it brings in more of the original sounds you got on Equinoxe and no doubt that this track is going back to what was left behind and to that album. You can certainly hear how Jarre is tying the both albums together on this track and this is really where you can hear that this album is no doubt working in the way of quite a very good sequel.

Track 5

The fifth movement “If The Wind Could Speak” is the shortest track on the album and just over a minute and half long. There is no doubt that more from the 1978 album Equinoxe is seeping its way into the album and effectively this like having the the wind and rain from Equinoxe Part 8 (Band In The Rain) with some voices from Zoolook thrown into the equation along with a new lead melody line.

Track 6

More of the 1978 album Equinoxe gets fused into this 6th track and movement on the album which is entitled “Infinity” and this is the most up-tempo track on the album with its dance style that we got from his later albums Metamorphoses and Téo & Téa. Only here Jarre has also incorporated the lead lines from Equinoxe Part 7. It’s the most lively track on the album and would perhaps be the number one choice for the single release from the album. Some may even see it has the best track on the album, but personally I could not choose one simply because this is an album that works and flows like an album and each part plays it’s part very well in putting it all across.

Track 7

The 7th movement “Machines Are Learning” is another of the shorter tracks on the album and comes in at 2 mins 7 secs. Once again we get some familiar bass synth sequencing we got on the album Equinoxe and it actually sounds like it was done on the Pro One though that synth is not in list on this album. I actually sold one on ebay last year for a mate of mine and it is a very Fat synth.

Though Jarre never used that synth, not even on the original album and this was most likely done on the ARP 2600. There is also quite a lot of new sounds thrown along the lines of the sequencer on this track that add to the tension and suspense of the piece. It simmers the album down effectively enough for it to bring it back up with the next track and works very well to do that too.

Track 8

The Opening” is the 8th movement and a piece that Jarre had composed or the album although he composed a live version of it first to play it on his US tour at the Coachella Festival in the summer of 2018. There is a difference between the both versions and Jarre gave the studio version more of a different approach of how he wanted the piece to be in the first place. He very much seen that the live version would work as the opening of his live concert, whereas the studio version for the album was more of an opening used in the sense of opening a gate into another porthole into somewhere else that leads into virgin territory as an example. Which does not have to come into play at the beginning of the movie sort of thing.

Once again we have the familiar bass synth sequence lines used for the rhythm to drive it along just like we got on the albums Equinoxe and Magnetic Fields and he has blended in an array of other familiar and new sounds to accompany it. It’s another GREAT! track that lifts the album back up with its faster tempo and pace, and adds to the excitement and the listening experience.

Track 9

The 9th track on the album “Don’t Look Back” is a way of saying you do not have to look back once you gained knowledge from the past and you should be focusing more on the future and what it holds. The music also expresses that in the way that this piece does not use many elements from Jarre’s past albums such as Equinoxe and his other albums to reflect the music we have here. It still contains Jarre’s touch of style but in a different way, and its got quite a mystic feel and sense of purpose about it. it also flows along at a wonderful steady pace throughout.

Track 10

The final track on the album is the longest piece and the albums self titled track and weighs in at 7 minutes 32 seconds. I suppose in some ways with its slower pace you could say it was a bit like the self titled album track “Waiting For Cousteau” from that 1990 album with how it opens up, only this is not some 47 minutes long and does have more to its build than that boring piece of crap :)))))) and does not annoy me either.

To be honest I would not say this particular track that ends off the album is very strong and it’s more of a soundscape to float your way through the stars in that vast open space. It does have some nuisances that creep their way in as it builds towards the end and effectively puts a good ending to the album.

Summary…

To sum up Equinoxe Infinity by Jean Michel Jarre. I would say that it’s an album that captures a lot of the magic about the man’s music from many moons ago and that is what grabs me about this album more than anything. OK to some extent I can understand some reviewers wanting something more in the way of something new rather than stepping back to the past, but you could not really do that to make a sequel to an album that came out originally in 1978.

Some may even like the way that Mike Oldfield done his third sequel to Tubular Bells with his more modern approach. But as a sequel it simply does not work as one and sounds absolutely bugger all like the first two. It’s marginally light years away and what on earth possessed the man to try and incorporate “Moonlight Shadow” into the piece. No doubt Oldfield did get carried away by his own moonlight shadow and that album simply was not good enough to even associate it with the name of Tubular Bells.

No doubt Jarre has blended in some new elements to the old elements, and much of the other elements came from his other albums he has put out over the years. But he has still very much incorporated some of the original elements from the 1978 album which very much links it, and makes it work as a sequel, even if it is not like he did with Oxygene 7 – 13 where he reworked most of the original melody lines from it’s predecessor. I personally felt that second sequel to Oxygene was very much a masterpiece of work just like Oldfield done with his second sequel to Tubular Bells.

Equinoxe Infinity is an album that may not have captured all of the genius within Jarre’s creativity with how it shined back in 1997 when he made  Oxygene 7 – 13. That sequel was a masterclass stroke of genius in every way. But what we have here does capture some magic and personally this album is very much a return to form and he is without a doubt back to his very best.

Conclusion…

To conclude my review of Jean Michael Jarre’s latest album Equinoxe Infinity. I would say he has made one very addictive album that even I myself could not stop playing on the day it arrived. To give you an idea just how well good this album really is. On the same day it arrived I also had the latest album Proxy by The Tangent arrive. For my personal taste in music prog rock will always come before electronic music, and after playing Equinoxe Infinity 3 times before I even played the new Tangent album. The Tangent’s album only got one spin that day in relation to the 7 spins I gave this album.

I am not saying that The Tangent’s album is not good by any means, but this album of Jarre’s is just so much more highly addictive. I still cannot stop playing it now :)))). My personal highlights from the album are “The Opening“. “Flying Totems“. “Infinity“. “All That You Leave Behind” and “Robots Dont Cry“. Though the best way to experience the album is by listening to it from the beginning to the end.

Like I said I was not expecting any great expectations with this latest release but he certainly has exceeded all expectations and for me this album is very much a winner and a welcoming return back to what I have always loved about his music. This album may have been made in 2018 and even with all its more later technology it still sounds like it came out of the 70’s, and if you are doing a sequel to an album that came from that decade, that’s exactly what it should sound like and not something too far removed.

Jean Michel Jarre is truly back to his very best and this album certainly has to be amongst the top albums to come out in 2018.

The Watchers Are Watching You…

The CD track listing is as follows:

01. The Watchers (Movement 1). 2:58.
02. Flying Totems (Movement 2). 3:53.
03. Robots Dont Cry (Movement 3). 5:43.
04. All That You Leave Behind (Movement 4). 4:00.
05. If The Wind Could Speak (Movement 5). 1:32.
06. Infinity (Movement 6). 4:13.
07. Machines Are Learning (Movement 7). 2:07.
08. The Opening (Movement 8). 4:16.
09. Don’t Look Back (Movement 9). 3:35.
10. Equinoxe Infinity (Movement 10). 7:32.

Lee’s Packaging Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Price Point Rating Score. 10/10.

Lee’s Album Rating Score. 9/10.

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