French composer Jean Michel Jarre is one of electronic music’s key pioneers: His 1976 blockbuster Oxygene presaged the widescreen sweep of techno and trance, while his live multimedia extravaganzas were rave prototypes. His first album in eight years, Electronica 1: The Time Machine, teams him with a number of his digital progeny, from Moby to M83, as well as machine-music peers Laurie Anderson and Pete Townshend. (Think “Baba O’Riley.”)
But, like Giorgio Moroder’s recent comeback, Deja Vu, the set mostly adds a new sheen to an old formula, as on the limpid surge of “Automatic” with Erasure’s Vince Clarke and “Stardust” with trance kingpin Armin van Buuren. The tracks with vocals, oddly, have the least amount of character, whether it’s the dolorous new wave of Moby’s “Suns Have Gone,” Townshend’s uncomfortable yelp on “Travelator Pt. 2” or Little Boots’ dinky “If…!” The title is a misnomer: A time machine should really take you someplace more compelling than this.