A Waning Allure
Compilation albums are often risky business, any sensible investor would be hard pressed to find themselves banking on the success of a mish mashed composition from a smattering of artists, no matter how revered the curator may be. Similar statements hold true for musicians in their twilight years, far too many artists have gone the way of Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses, taking their once hallowed names and sullying them with blatant cash grabs. It stands to reason then that one would be wary of Jean Michel Jarre’s Electronica 2: The Heart of Noise. Unfortunately for listeners and Jarre, those fears are well founded.
The album actually opens with a promising set of songs, “The Heart of Noise pt.1” is a thrumming, menacing presence with a heart of gold, the interior of the song sparkles with bright twinkling synth, drawing ready comparisons to former collaborator Fuck Buttons Slow Focus or Roll the Dice’s Until Silence. The track effortlessly floats along, as if riding waves of stardust along the night sky until it fades into the much more up front “The Heart of Noise pt.2.” Pt.2 still retains some of the light airy qualities of Pt.1 but the beat is much more apparent, sounding at times like a slowed down Todd Terje (an artist no doubt influenced by Jarre’s expansive career). The synths here are engaging and unique and seem to be headed somewhere with directive and purpose.
Sadly, the album starts to turn after those two tracks. The third track “Brick England” still possesses many positive qualities, the chorus and verses are overall enjoyable, but the song feels uninspired and passive. The first major misstep is the track “As One,” which attempts to evoke an anthemic quality but somehow manages to sound forced and contrived, falling just short of self-referential in its cheesiness. The album does regain some steam with tracks like “Electees” and (to some small degree) “Switched on Leon” the latter of which features an engaging vocal sample that harkens back to the more cinematic qualities of “Pt.1” and “Pt.2.” The album then finally stumbles back into rhythm far too late with the closer “The Heart of Noise (The Origin)” which seemingly is intended to loop back into “Pt.1” but is ultimately not enough to save this album from being much more than a grab-bag of various styles of electronic music.
Jarre is undeniably a master of his craft, after 40 plus years of music making the man still clearly shows some drive and talent. Sadly it seems his contributions are best as a solo artist. The album falls short largely due to a few small factors, the largest being its notable inability to take various collaborators and styles and blend them into a cohesive package. The second is the failure to recognize that the best electronic music often overcomes its dance stereotypes through a cinematic quality, an extremely technical edge, or by embracing it’s dance sensibilities. This album ends up falling flat in all regards, as it fails to establish its desired niche. It simply tries too hard to smash them all into one package with no regard for flow or cohesiveness. This album is simply something everyone has heard before, its not necessarily bad, but it certainly isn’t great.