The Not-Metal Corner: An Electronica Pioneer


Greetings, Flushketeers!  It is Guacamole Jim, your favorite chip dip, stopping by to drop some sanitary mints into The Toilet ov Hell. Take off your denim jackets, hang up your leather bracers, and swap that mead for champagne as we listen to some decidedly un-metal music.

There is so much quality non-metal music that it was difficult to peg down who I felt would be most worthy to throw into the Toilet.  Soon, though, the answer struck me: why not begin with the world’s BIGGEST ARTIST EVER? Now, before you all come at me with cries of “The Beatles?” “Pink Floyd?” “Michael Jackson?” “Cattle Decapitation?” I need to specify that I’m making this claim based on the world’s largest concerts, not on album sales or other such statistics. The artist I bring to you has tied with Rod Stewart for the world’s largest concert, playing for 3.5 million people on Moscow’s 850th birthday. He also holds the records for 2nd, 11th, 13th, and 16th largest concerts in the world. This man, the biggest artist you may not have heard of, is the electronic pioneer Jean Michel Jarre.

A quick Wikipedia search will give anyone curious enough about this Frenchman enough information to sooth their inflamed breasts (and will also give away from where I obtained the entirety of my knowledge), but there is one very notable moment in his career that I wish to highlight. Early in the 1980s JMJ became the first western artist to perform in the post-revolution People’s Republic of China, no small mark on an already impressive résumé. The album that JMJ produced from his tour in China, Les Concerts En Chine, is the work I present to my fellow flushers. Unlike his earlier offerings, this double disk was an (almost) entirely live recording, with JMJ‘s typical programmed beats being replaced with a live drummer (utilizing an electric kit). The resulting energy is tangible in the recordings, not from the audience (western style concerts were entirely unknown to the Chinese at that time) but from JMJ and his musical cohorts. I draw your attention to one track in particular:

While this track is far from being the best cut on an almost flawless record, it demonstrates the energy of the live performance that emanates from Les Concerts En Chine. There are slower, moodier songs (“Nuit a Shanghai”; “Equinoxe, pt. 7”), goofy tracks (“La derniere rumba”), beautiful arrangements of Chinese traditional music (“Jonques de pecheurs Au Crepuscule”), music concrète (“Souvenir de Chine”), and my own personal favorite, “Arpegiateur”. Surprisingly, the more mellow tracks never seem to lose the excitement that the up-tempo material radiates so clearly; a testament to the skills of the performers.

If you’re intrigued, have never heard of Jean Michel Jarre before, and want to check him out, I highly recommend clicking the links. If you’ve heard of him before but aren’t familiar with much of his material, this is a great place to dive in. If you know him and love him, I will mail you fresh guacamole from my kitchen. If you know him and hate him, I will mail you old guacamole from my ass. Listen to the full album below!

(photo via)

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