“Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise” is the second volume from Jean Michel Jarre’s most ambitious project to date, a collaboration with 30 electronic musicians from other decades and styles. I loved the first volume but this one was my most anticipated because two of my musical heroes got to work together: Jarre and Hans Zimmer. Seems like a dream to be able to hear a track featuring both of them. Besides the regular musical collaborations there’s also a strange piece on this album, the track “Exit” which is includes a monologue by famous hacker and whistleblower Edward Snowden about digital privacy playing after an aggressive electronic beat.
I almost wanted to postpone listening to “Electrees” until I was done with the rest of the album but anticipation got the better of me. As soon as the track started I thought if Hans Zimmer’s rare and so welcomed return to pure electronic music in last year’s “Chappie”. The track is a bit more complex and even spectacular by electronic standards than what was in that score and it includes, even here the famous Zimmer buildup, in digital form. The music comes and gains strength like a wave of emotion and I recognize the stamp of both legends in it.
I like the title “The heart of noise”. “Noise” sounds disturbing and not at all melodic but when you add heart to it, it makes me think of finding order in a chaos or looking beyond appearances. The album opens with the two part title track and for someone like me who’s been a Jean Michel Jarre fan for over 25 years, to listen to something like this by this musician in 2016 is pure bliss. Everything I love about electronic and ambient music is concentrated in this wonderful, dreamy and melancholic gift. The magic is still there and the sound hasn’t aged a bit. I feel as if I’m transported back to the 70s when it all began with a simple and dark melodic electronic sound. Jarre fans will embrace the opening and keep it close no matter where they might go. Part 1 is dreamy; part 2 is more modern, edgy and livelier as if to show his music’s evolution over the years. I can’t wait to hear part 2 in concert! But this is the JMJ I grew up with and love.
Another collaboration I was looking very much forward to was the one with Pet Shop Boys, another band I’ve loved for so many years. The nostalgia and delight I get when listening to “Brick England” take me over with a wave of warmth that echoes back to so many years of listening to this music. I get flashes of times when the Jarre or PSB music punctuated special moments in my life and this is what it’s all about for me when listening to music. The unique voice of Neil Tennant coupled with the electronic background make this another favorite from the album.
I like the darkness in “These creatures”. I can swear I hear samples of the “Lord of the dance” soundtrack in “As one”. Everywhere I look inside “The heart of noise” there’s something inviting me to play or replay some of my favorite memories. I’m in a fairy tale land where everything is simple and made of pixels and no matter where I chose to stop I will be happy. I am more drawn to the electronic tracks than dance ones like “Circus” or “Switch on Leon”.
The core of the album for me, or the heart of it, are the tracks with Gary Numan and, of course, Hans Zimmer. The Gary Numan track “Here for you” (and another link to the film music world) will delight fans of both artists. I could recognize anywhere that haunting and haunted voice and that tormented rhythm. 80s nostalgics will also adore the track written with Yello. Here as well Jarre chose artists with a special and easily recognizable voice which adds depth to the track. I missed millionaire Dieter Meier deep and dark voice. From the artists I wasn’t familiar with I liked the most “Gisele”, the collaboration with Sebastien Tellier.
I am happy that “The heart of noise” is even better than “The time machine”. As a collection these two albums take a high spot in my list of favorite Jean Michel Jarre compositions and I’m happy to have one of my favorite musicians ever still so strong and inspired. He assembled the equivalent of The Expendables of electronic music and it was great. Can’t wait to see him live!
“The Heart of Noise, Pt. 1” (with Rone)
“The Heart of Noise, Pt. 2”
“Brick England” (with Pet Shop Boys)
“These Creatures” (with Julia Holter)
“Here For You” (with Gary Numan)
“Electrees” (with Hans Zimmer)
“Gisele” (with Sebastien Tellier)
“Why This, Why That and Why” (with Yello)
“Swipe to the Right” (with Cyndi Lauper)
“The Heart of Noise (The Origin)”