Review: Jean-Michel Jarre - Planet Jarre: 50 Years Of Music

It’s easy to forget just how huge Jean-Michel Jarre was. There was a time in the late 70s when it seemed compulsory for every UK home to own a copy of his No.1 album, Oxygène, while his 1997 Moscow performance to 3.5 million people remains the biggest gig ever.

One person who has never forgotten how huge Jean-Michel Jarre was is Jean-Michel Jarre, who has compiled a fittingly heavyweight boxset to mark his half-century. Planet Jarre arrives as a 2CD set, a 4LP vinyl collection packaged as a book, and an ‘ultimate’ boxset of two CDs and, of all things, two cassette tapes.

Yet the C90s make a kind of sense here, a nod to the restrictions of format within which Jarre was working. For all that his cosmic space music embraced futurism, he was a creature of the pre-digital age, a wizard of ye olde analogue synths to which he has remained loyal.

It is easy to paint Jarre as a pioneer of electronic music and yet he never garnered the critical garlands and hip factor of Krautrock ground-breakers such as Can, Kraftwerk or Neu! He studied under a musique concrete pioneer, Pierre Schaeffer, yet his own work rarely pushed the envelope. Instead, Jarre favoured harnessing his electronic bleeps, hisses and gurgles to conventional melodies, hence his vast commercial success. He blanded out the ideas of Klaus Schulze or Walter Carlos for the mainstream: even the iconic five-note melody of his signature tune, Oxygène IV, carries the whiff of cheese. Where the pioneers got the arrows, he was the settler who got the land.

That said, there is plenty to delight diehard fans of Jarre, who has been diligently hands-on with this project, which he divides into four sections: Soundscapes, Themes, Sequences and Explorations & Early Works. There are two new tracks, Coachella Opening and Herbalizer, and a demo of Music for Supermarkets, the 1983 album of which he pressed only one copy before destroying the masters. As an orgy of retro-futurism, this is hard to beat.

Written by Ian Gittins

Buy the album here.

Stream the album here.

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