Jarre's first three albums were very similar in structure and content, so respect is due to him for taking a side-step with "Zoolook". I misunderstood this as his "weird" album for years, but on a reappraisal I can get where he was coming from. It's infused with the new-wave experimental spirit shared by Peter Gabriel, Laurie Anderson (who contributes to the album) and Talking Heads. The album's "bizarre" image is probably based on the use of the Vocoder, one of his favourite toys of the moment, and other odd vocal effects. Evoking imagery from dusty industrial landscapes to alien furry animals, it's interestingly original, if not a complete musical success.
On the showpiece "Ethnicolor", glowering symphonic keyboards give a dark and creepy background for snatches of surreal vocoder conversation. The darkness is dispersed in the end with a funky closing section featuring an exhilarating chord sequence and whirling sweeps up and down. Laurie Anderson gives an alien pronunciation lesson on "Diva", over some watery sound effects. Funky slap bass and 80's dance beats date the New-Orderish vocoder-led pop of "Zoolookologie" and "Zoolook". "Blah Blah Café" however, is still on the wacky side, with its noise effects, the vocoder loop saying "fresh vegetables" and its raucous tune.
December 22, 2004