Don’t worry–no one is going to fault you if you mistake Solarization, the new release from Janneh, for a long-lost Jean Michel Jarre album. It sounds like the artist snuck into JMJ’s sound library and whisked away all the good stuff, then blended it into seven short pieces. Which is not to say they aren’t original, but they do lean heavily on the nostalgia button for the album’s 35-minute run. Which isn’t so bad; old-school music lovers like me will enjoy having that particular pleasure center pinged over and over. That swirly, breathy whoosh that’s in virtually every Jarre release? It’s here. That twisty, ripply downward sound-squib? That’s here, too. So you have your music-genealogy waypoints in place. But let’s put that aside and consider Solarization on its own. I have enjoyed everything I’ve previously heard from Janne Hanhisuanto (this is the fourth release I’ve reviewed), and while I think this is not as strong as his other work, it has its spots. Part 2 is one of those distinctly Jarre-inspired pieces–it puts me in mind of some piece about a train (maybe?). A big, rubbery Berlin-style bass sequence holds down the low end for the high, sunny-day melody. And oh, those whooshes… It all drips with tasty retro, but I do have to say that the electronic drums, kicking out a steady beat, have an artificial tinniness that can wear thin quickly. Some things are retro because we stopped enjoying them. Part 3 is a charming song that lopes along on an easy rhythm. Great guitar work in this one as Janneh lays a soulful solo over the top. Part 5 is my favorite track, packing a light Middle Eastern flair, including some very nice (sampled, maybe?) hand percussion. It’s a serpentine, dancing bit of work, pushed ahead by a pulsing sequencer line that has just a touch of club-music pedigree to it. Great layers at work here. The closing track finds Janneh closer to the ambient side of things, carving out a comparatively minimal feel where the space between moments is emphasized, punctuated with a simple, percussive chord that echoes off into the distance. Keys take the front here, placed over quiet pads, picking out a meandering melodic line. The blend works very well–the droning backdrop, the casual leads, and that very cool and very consistent accent sound.
Solarization is quick and pleasant. Hanhisuanto skirts the edges of being simply derivative and delivers another good chapter in his ongoing musical story. Give it a listen.
Available at CD Baby.