Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Lifting the lid on Jarre

On Friday Chicane plays London's Koko in support of new album Thousand Mile Stare, whose sleeve photography riffs on the cover of Jean-Michel Jarre's Magnetic Fields (pictured, 1981). It's unusual for anyone to so openly acknowledge the influence of composer Maurice Jarre's son, who became in Britain a figure of French fun - for his marriage to Charlotte Rampling and glorified son et lumière shows around the world.

Unusual, too, to choose to copy this particular image, rather than paying homage to Jarre's early Oxygène (1976) and Equinox (1978) albums, which are granted a grudging pioneering status for fans of electronica, though no way on a par with Kraftwerk, or Depeche Mode for that matter. Perhaps it's not surprising, given the British electronic artist's age that he should be attracted to Magnetic Fields.

It's a melodic, enchanting work, no doubt inspired by Kraftwerk's Trans-Europe Express (1977), the Düsseldorf quartet's best work. After that moment, Jarre became involved in the development of the ungainly, sci-fi laser harp and was set to perform track Rendez-Vous 6 with Ron McNair playing the saxophone live in space, before the astronaut was killed in the Challenger explosion.

A pioneer of the ambient scene - it's difficult to imagine The Orb existing without him, for instance - there have been sporadic attempts to restore Jarre's reputation, not least some stonking Slam remixes in 1994. His influence can be heard in Pet Shop Boys' soundtrack for silent film Battleship Potemkin (notably on track Full Steam Ahead) and in work by other French artists, such as Air.

In 2000, Jarre returned the compliment, on the noticeably Air-y Metamorphoses album, which features Natacha Atlas, Sharon Corr and Laurie Anderson. Anderson had previously featured on oddity Zoolook (1984), with its sample-heavy soundscape, for which the American musician complained she'd never had to sing so high.

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