26 November 2009

Chronologie - Jean Michel Jarre

Chronologie is a 1993 album by French synthesizer musician Jean Michel Jarre. Broadly speaking, the majority of Jarre's studio albums are based around some kind of theme after which the album is titled. Chronologie is no exception, taking time as its basis, which explains the dedication to Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History Of Time'. In concert footage from the period, Jarre's trademark pyrotechnics and projections clearly show how the album's tracks progress through time, from the beginning of the universe through to the evolution of living beings. He even manages to get a splash of sex in there with Chronologie Part 6; it's not everyone who can get away with projecting naughty nuns and hundred-foot high sperm onto surrounding architecture, although Laurie Anderson did have a go with her sending messages to Japan speech. (Obscure reference No. 1)
Chronologie is classic Jarre in many ways. A long, slow-build up in the first part of the recording, leading to a short, snappy track where the second side of the cassette or LP would be - in this case it's Chronologie Part 4, which began life as a beepy little sound for Swatch's range of 'musi-call' watches. Later on, however, there are rap influences, thankfully rhythmic rather than vocal, and Chronologie 7 does use the old Jarre trick of replaying an earlier theme from the album at a slower speed.
But wait - what's that on track three? Remember, this is Jean Michel Jarre, rumoured to be the world's first synthesizer superstar (if you read the popular press and probably don't include Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Jan Hammer or indeed, anyone else who's ever picked up a keyboard), he who began a career with disturbingly analogue film scores, the odd bit of tape-spliced Erosmachine and dementedly musique-concrete La Cage. There are lovely warm synths on Oxygene, and then gentle swooshes of Equinoxe, bear in mind. So what's with the electric guitars?
Around this time, Jarre seemed to become friendly with Patrick Rondat, going as far as to produce an album for him, and taking him on tour to add a new and rather pretentious and twiddly twist to the old Jarre favourites. There's not a lot of guitar on the album, actually, and thankfully the alliance didn't last too long. I'm still convinced the live track 'Digisequencer' would be far better with more Digisequencer and less Rondat.
There are eight tracks on Chronologie, and they're numbered 1 to 8 in the traditional Jarre fashion. Chronologie 4 had moderate success as a single and spawned a whole host of remixes by people like Praga Khan, Black Girl Rock and Sunscreem. Chronologie 6 attracted the attention of Slam and Gat Decor, who somehow removed all traces of the original track and produced a set of rather generic dance remixes. I still like them, but not as much as the original.

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