Thursday, 28 February 2019

Jean Michel Jarre "Oxygene" (1976)

Early synthesizer music has always fascinated me, the likes of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream have been a pleasure for years so its always a delight to stumble onto some of these old records where electronic music sounded vastly different from today. Retro synth tones and soundscape ideals, an embracing of ambience and the imagination make these records starkly different from what else was available at the time, Its a true fascination to hear these early artists and their emerging visions. French composer Jean Michel Jarre certainly had a finger on the pulse and this forty minute classic is a delightful work that still holds up well to this day.

Its six songs flow like a river. The whirl of layered looped synth cycles buzz out entrancing and repetitive indulgences that subtly expand and contract as its various elements slowly shift over the songs. The droning constructs give way to lead tones that play out like a guitar solo on a couple of particularly engaging passageways. Its percussive edge is varied from track to track. A range of synthesized emulations, hi hats, kicks and snares, sit softly in the background holding tempo and for large parts of the record drops down to a construct of two or three hits as it ebbs and flows into its different degrees of intensity, complimenting the mood and tone of his synths.

What sticks out like a soar thumb but certainly works is its use of rampant, rolling laser zap sounds and other "gimmicky" synthesized noises that are hashed in. The chirps of birds, calls of dolphins and husky whispering electronic waves wash into the music with a firm boldness that add to the atmosphere despite being clunky in nature. Its the underlying melodies that rise up from a repetitive foundation that make the music transformative, giving it sparks. Within the lure of chilled out, indulgent atmospheres, mysterious, new age synth tones played with curiosity, always emerges a lead instrument, sometime two in tandem, to follow and make sense of the scenic sounds.

Its a marvelous listening experience that visits six distinct chapters, of which four was immediately recognizable. It dives straight into a memorable lead melody that was very familiar. I couldn't find any movie soundtracks I suspected I might know it from but it did feature in the GTA IV soundtrack so perhaps that is where the familiarity extends from. All in all its just a fantastic gem of a record that any lover of electronic, retro or ambient music should take the time to check it. Its entrancing, indulging and full of vivid imagination birthed through sound.

Favorite Track: Part IV, Part V
Rating: 8/10