JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: Oxygene (1976)
“This is a classic in modern Electronic Music which year after year brings new fans to the art of Electronic Music”
1 Oxygene Part I 7:40
2 Oxygene Part II 8:08
3 Oxygene Part III 2:54
4 Oxygene Part IV 4:14
5 Oxygene Part V 10:23
6 Oxygene Part VI 6:20
Polydor Dreyfus 800 015-2 (CD 39:47)
(Cosmic French School)
In 1976, Electronic Music reached new harmonious heights. Klaus Schulze produces the enigmatic Moondawn, Ashra opens new dimensions with the inevitable New Age on Earth, while Tangerine Dream seduces even more the underground press, and its fans, with the superb Statosfear. In France, Jean Michel Jarre works meticulously on the same project, which took root in the shadow of Deserted Palace, for almost 2 years. OXYGENE! Very comfortable with the EMS VCS3 synthesizer, he creates a bank of sounds, sound samplings that would bring together elements of the Earth (waves, terns, train sounds, etc.) to an intergalactic universe superbly recreated for the time. The result was going to shake the musical universe! The arrival of OXYGENE is a shock wave in the very progressive spheres of what was already called the Berlin School in the 70's. More than a turning point in the history of modern music, OXYGENE marks an era. Beyond the sharpness of its sonority and the effects of a reinvented and audacious stereo, Jarre managed to weld hovering cosmic rock movements to commercial anthems that catch a new audience year after year, and even today. And even my Lise, who is not interested at all in music, recognized Oxygene IV as soon as she heard it. The catchy rhythms and melodies have taken over radio and television stations which have found a new musical emblem for news reports, science shows, weather reports and more. A timeless classic, OXYGENE, like Equinoxe, has quickly become a reference for testing the accuracy and sound quality of stereo systems. With more than 15 million copies sold, it's the ultimate proof that there is room for progressive and commercial electronic music.
Timidly the first notes of OXYGENE float in a spatial atmosphere. The movement is slow with beautiful synth layers of a tonality still virgin and sounds that Jarre has created according to his imagination and his musical vision of an intersidereal cosmos. We are there! Just with a little imagination, we drift among these stars and hum the darkness of the cosmos. The synth pads sign zigzag patterns with their chimerical violins that make us waltz beyond the terrestrial limits. These philharmonic layers make jingling cosmic bubbles and other sound effects from another dimension that will become the source of originality from the son of Maurice Jarre. They light elongated sharp filaments which sing through what seems to be Martenot waves. These songs of another universe give us goosebumps in the back with an acuteness more poignant than spectral. And we drift peacefully to the territories of Oxygene II. Already, the tone changes! The tone of chords is threatening and the intensity of the ambiances gallop on the back of stars and pushes the keyboard to sign the first electronic anthem of the Jean-Michel Jarre collection. This rhythmic melody is catchy and confronts these wooshh and waashh, as well as these percussions that emerge like jets of nebula vapor, which are a mixture of waves and breezes and which will adorn many cosmic decors over the years. The mass of sounds is always unstable and guides us towards Oxygene III and its level of intensity as vibrant as it's austere. The arpeggios resonate with a hint of fright in its sonic etiolation, while the synth howls with a panoply of specters which hoot with their icy voices.
Who doesn't know Oxygene IV? Stray tones of lp's Face A seek a way back with the ambience elements of Oxygene IV. Wooshh and waashh and interstellar waves return treading the banks on a distant planet. And crikkk, Oxygene IV takes flight with a structure a little more alive than what we will name down-tempo much later and especially this mesh of electronic percussions and tails of rattlesnakes which support a real electronic melody whistled by a synthesizer. This is Jarre's first commercial hit and the first modern EM title to loop in AM radio, like a certain Popcorn which was popularized by Hot Butter in 1972. The rhythm is surrounded by a fascinating dialogue of synths and that voice of Gargoyle filled of water. This delicious earworm gets lost in the maze of the enigmatic Oxygene V. Enigmatic because its first part is of sound atmospheres with a concerto for synth and songs lost in the vast loneliness of the cosmos. Nearly 4 minutes later, the rhythm is heard by the arrival of a choreography between arpeggios and oscillations which engage quite a duel in stereo. The percussions slam around these exchanges which end up seducing the new fans less adepts of the ambient structures. The auditory pleasure is at its height on this very well-crafted structure and which testifies of a painstaking task of Jean-Michel Jarre in order to fill his bank of sounds which will serve for Equinoxe. It's the swirls and waves of astral water which tie Oxygen V's ending to OXYGENE's finale; Oxygene VI. A slight surprise here with a more down-to-earth approach and its electronic rumba that is closer to here than Cosmos.
OXYGENE pushes the boundaries of EM by imposing a style that is as creative as commercial. The challenge is launched and will give many emulators of the French synthesist and a generation of musicians who would democratize EM with a touch that is so like the cinema of France. It's the birth of the French School...
Sylvain Lupari (October 11th, 2006) *****