“Water & air, the two essential fluids on which all life depends have become global garbage cans”. – Jacques-Yves Cousteau
Initially employed as a seductive prelude for audiences attending his spectacular open air concerts Jean-Michel Jarre reworked the captivating ambient passage into 48 minute showpiece entitled ” En Attendant Cousteau ” as a homage to the French underwater explorer and scientist Jacques-Yves Cousteau on the auspicious occasion of his 80th birthday on June 11, 1990. Over a decade after Cousteau`s passing an almost chilling spectral presence presides over it`s sublime hydrospheric visages resonated by a forlorn piano melody that is so subtle that it`s labyrinthine virtues are not immediately noticed as It gradually acquires a poignant trance-like cadence.
While many were quick to to critcise Jarre for deviating from his established formats at the time of it`s release it must be remembered that that the length and moody aura of the piece is meant to metaphorically express a life-long dedication to unlocking the mysteries of the silent world of the sea whose secrets are only revealed to those who possess the reverence of a man such as Cousteau. For the uninitiated, among Jacques-Yves Cousteau`s lifelong achievements was the perfection of the aqua-lung breathing apparatus, predicting echolocation capabilities in cateceons in addition to producing numerous underwater film an television documentaries which gave the layman a glimpse into this elusive and infinite world. A dauntingly challenging piece of music for the chance listener, it is preceded by a somewhat shorter section in three parts entitled Calypso, Calypso II & Calypso III ( Fin Du Siecle ) which are more representative of previous works. From a personal standpoint I prefer to begin with the longer centerpiece and concluding with the introductory trilogy.
Although not containing the pathos of the expansive title composition, the Calypso trilogy reflects Jarre`s passionate admiration for his fellow countryman and each part can be seen as a metaphor in itself as well. Although Cousteau`s research vessel which was affectionately named Calypso after the sea nymph in Greek Mythology the pieces seem to convey different aspects of Cousteau`s work in which the ship, a converted WWII Royal Navy minesweeper, played an instrumental role. Calypso music is used as a device to personify the human facet of the sea exploration on the introductory upbeat electro-carib rave up, Calypso, which includes steel drums normaly associated with that style which was ascended from Afro roots as well as French troubadour music, fitting for both Jarre and Cousteau. The two other sections investigate life in Cousteau`s silent world where the unknowns and perpetuity of the sea are anounced with foreboding synth passages which give way to a more uplifting, breathtaking images with omnipresent aqua-synth effects which emphasize the unfolding undersea dramas. The final section with it`s sub-title Fin Du Siecle ( end of the century ) evokes optimism and establishes a majestic celebratory tone that conjures images of operatic underwater waltzes of dolphins, sting rays and sea turtles conducting their aquatic rituals and beckons to the future with glimmers of hope.
Perhaps a black sheep in comparison to the rest of Jarre`s catalogue but it accomplishes it`s main goal of extrapolating the life of one of the most celebrated undersea explorers through the medium of electronic music. En Attendant Cousteau is a magnificent, relaxing and wondrous audio experience for those who have time to sit down and reflect on the vitality and revelance of the resources of the sea to our very survival as revealed by a master of the deep and romanced by a master of electronic music.