Jean Michel Jarre is renowned for following all the technological innovations of today and often incorporating them into his music projects. In the same spirit, he prepared a New Year’s Eve show at the turn of 2020 and 2021. The record “Welcome To The Other Side – Live in Notre-Dame VR” is now bringing the action closer.
In the case of this French music magician, we have already seen many special concerts. The most current one used the technological possibilities that his fans transferred to virtual reality (if you had compatible VR glasses). Jean Michel Jarre came up with the concept that he had the Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris (with the help of the VRrOOm team) transformed into virtual reality (he was guided by a set of computer games), then his own avatar was created (by the way, the upcoming Abby tour will take place) and in the final he prepared a special, dance-oriented set. Notre-Dame turned into a renowned music club for the occasion, the broadcast began about thirty minutes before midnight and was broadcast live from Studio Gabriel. Jean Michel played his compositions here and the creative team transformed his actions into a virtual simulation.
The mainstays of the whole set are the albums “Electronica 1: The Time Machine” and “Electronica 2: The Heart Of Noise”, including collaborations with Tangerine Dream (“Zero Gravity”), Jeff Mills (“The Architect”) or Armin van Buuren. The stomped “Stardust”, which was created with the latter, then acts as a turning point in the countdown of midnight and is a fitting celebration of the first moments of 2021. Michel breathed new elements, for example by reworking previously published remixes. This is the case with a nipple in the form of the legendary “Oxygene 4”, in which he moved an adaptation from the workshop of the Astral Projection project. The finale belongs to “The Time Machine”, which was created in connection with Boys Noize and in which Jarre will leave for a while speak and his laser harp. The visual of the show plays with views from the outside of the illuminated Notre-Dame Cathedral, which alternates shots of what is happening inside. This corresponds to the individual tracks, so there are changes in the lighting apparatus and pictorial scenery (mostly levitating geometric shapes, or cosmic scenes). The whole grasp honors the majesty of the temple, but at the same time shows how virtual reality can change perceptions and that the transformation of such a space can be an infinite number. It’s a fantastic spectacle – especially gaming enthusiasts will appreciate the views into darker corners. However, it can be assumed that there will be listeners who will not like this pomp and pomp.
© Jean-Michel Jarre
The “Welcome To The Other Side” concert set was not the only release by Jean Michel Jarre this year. In addition to him, we also saw his new series “Amazônia”, on which he returned to a tougher work with sound experiments. In many ways, this is a return to the album “En attendant Cousteau” from 1990. The music area again serves its imagination. “Amazônia” became the soundtrack to the exhibition of the same name by the Brazilian photographer and filmmaker Sebastião Salgado, who went to the Amazon rainforest several times and had the selection of films accompanied by this set. Jarre divided the album into nine fictional chapters, in which, in addition to the electronic background, the field recordings of the Geneva Museum of Ethnography (MEG) play an important role. In addition to the hustle and bustle of the forests, he plays with fragments of indigenous songs, rhetorical snippets, choral tunes or the sound of atypical local musical instruments. So in this aspect, don’t expect his more distinctive handwriting with long melodies and building individual layers of synthesizers. “Amazônia” is the backdrop of day and night in the rainforest and focuses more on the individual elements of the day. For good (as in the case of “Welcome To The Other Side”), a download coupon for downloading a special binaural mix for listening in headphones is included. Rating: 7/10
Blu-ray offers, in addition to the video described above, several other bonuses, including a recording in audio form (5.0 mix). For good, there are two blocks of a documentary nature. “Making Of, Behind The Scenes” in the area of fifteen minutes brings the behind-the-scenes of the entire show, including Notre-Dam modeling, rehearsals and presentations to representatives of Paris City Hall. Jarre gradually introduces the whole team and rock fans who participated in the various stages of preparation. They will be pleased to have English subtitles available in this French-speaking review. However, the second film “Masterclass, Forum Des Images” does not have this, and although it is a record of a discussion with the main actor and CEO of VRrOOm, if you do not speak French and Italian, you will not take much away from this over ninety-minute sequence of questions and answers.
“Welcome To The Other Side – Live in Notre-Dame VR” is again in many respects a little further in the creative vision of this musical magician. It started years ago with the visual set “Aero”, since then Jean Michel Jarre has come a long way and continues to show how current technologies can be used, including virtual reality and connectivity around the world. The question remains where (and whether) it will move on. However, this act is a successful reminder of the ingenious celebration of the arrival of the New Year in dance mode.
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