[Review] Jean-Michel Jarre: Equinoxe (1978)

A one-man symphony of electronic music featuring a planetary alignment of inspiration.

Kronomyth 4.0: All things being equinoxe.

Dining on a desert moon, with the taking of toast and tea, this is the Jarre of space jam I would bring with me. As much as I enjoyed Oxygene (OK, so it didn’t exactly take my breath away), it’s Equinoxe where Jean-Michel Jarre settles into his own element. Slices of Tangerine Dream’s creepiness, Vangelis’ romance and Klaus Schulze’s rhythmic re-casting of a seemingly solid foundation are slipped into the sandwich, but the concoction is clearly in the hands of the French composer. His warmth, sense of humor, appreciation for clarity and simplicity all conspire to make Equinoxe his most compelling cosmic ballet.

The work is again split into parts, ostensibly following the sun on its course over the planet, witnessed from a remote location in the quiet aether. Pieces of Equinoxe can be counted among the composer’s most memorable moments: kindling his romance with the cosmos on Part 1, the burbling that closes Part 3 and leads the listener into the fascinating world of Part 4, the effusion of energy on Part 5, and the heroic Part 8. Where some of the devices in Oxygene seemed artificial, drawing the listener back down to earth with mundane gimmickry, Equinoxe chooses its effects with efficacy and eloquence: bubbling magma, clouds of loosely aggregated matter skimming by at light speed and shafts of light piercing an interminable darkness are carefully introduced and cleanly disposed before becoming overexposed.

Though Jarre had added a few polyphonic synthesizers to his arsenal since Oxygene, it’s not merely a broader lexicon of sounds but a better grasp of the electronic language that comes to light on Equinoxe. Granted, Equinoxe isn’t a departure from Oxygene’s formula so much as a new-and-improved version of that formula; the pieces are still divided into a rhythmic foundation and a melodic tier on top, and his hallmark humorous interlude appears a little early at the close of Part 7 (this piece was later billed as “The Band in the Rain” when performed for Les Concerts En Chine). Perhaps Equinoxe isn’t a Polaris in the pantheon of luminous space rock epics (a place I’ll accord to Phaedra), but it certainly stands as a work of Sirius merit.

Original elpee version

A1. Equinoxe Part 1 (2:15)
A2. Equinoxe Part 2 (5:10)
A3. Equinoxe Part 3 (5:35)
A4. Equinoxe Part 4 (7:30)
B1. Equinoxe Part 5 (3:50)
B2. Equinoxe Part 6 (3:30)
B3. Equinoxe Part 7 (8:10)
B4. Equinoxe Part 8 (5:00)

Composed by Jean-Michel Jarre.

The Players

Jean-Michel Jarre (2600 ARP synthesizer, AKS synthesizer, VCS 3 synthesizer, Yamaha polyphonic synthesizer, Oberheim polyphonic synthesizer, RMI harmonic synthesizer, RMI keyboard computer, ELKA 707, Korg polyphonic ensemble, Eminent, mellotron, ARP sequencer, Oberheim digital sequencer, Matrisequencer 250, rhythmicomputer, Vocoder E.M.S.) with Michael Geiss (special thanks for his help and development of new instruments). Produced by Jean-Michel Jarre; mix engineered by Jean-Pierre Janiaud.

The Pictures

Front cover by Michel Granger. Photo by Helmut Newton.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track in December 1978 in France (Dreyfus, FDM 83150), the UK (Polydor, POLD 5007), the US and Canada (Polydor, PD/PD4/PD8-1-6175), Germany and the Netherlands (Polydor, 2344 120), Japan (Polydor, MPF 1214) and Yugoslavia (Dreyfus, 5846). Reached #11 on the UK charts and #126 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1985 in West Germany (Polydor, 800 025-2).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on April 5, 1994 in the US and Canada (Dreyfus, FDM 36141-2).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in the US (Mobile Fidelity, UDCD 647).

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