First off, let me say I am incredibly excited about the return of Jean-Michel Jarre to music. Not that he had ever gone anywhere, but it had been a while since we had heard new material, which became a reality after the launch of the popular "Electronica" series, which featured everyone from the late Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream, to the iconic Vince Clarke.
Now I know by most younger people's standards in today's mainstream Electronic Music scene, this is not "Electro" music, and perhaps for the underground heads not what we would call Techno Bass. But let me just argue quickly that historically in some countries, Electro first off, was a term that described all forms of early Electronic music, such as Jarre and Kraftwerk, in a time when this kind of music was pure and not overly saturated or drowned in over-genrefication. And that's not mentioning Jarre was without question not just one of the core pioneers of Electronic Music period, but also one of the first who like Kraftwerk, began to lay a framework for certain styles of Electro Breaks that would eventually popularize to great extent, like Synth Pop for example in Equinoxe Pt. 5. It is true as some have said, that Electro is an approach to making music, not a specific type of music. And so here we will take an adventure through the heart and soul of one of the most inlfuential artists of all time.
If you didn't know, Jean-Michel Jarre is a kind of superhero of sorts. He is, I dare say, the most famous musician you have never heard of. As UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Jean-Michel Jarre has traveled the world far and wide, exposing the masses for more than 40 years to authentic Electro music, never watered down or compromised, and always full of rich emotive energies that propel his music to the status of masterpieces like that of composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. Here we find, that after so much evolution, both personally and in general with his own sound over the years, the amazing artist we came to love after the release of the iconic Oxygene and Equinoxe albums is still driven by the same amazing forces that started his career.
The success of both these records would lead Jean-Michel Jarre to a type of success unheard of before, writing his own Guiness Book Of World Records entry, after amassing a whopping over 1 million attendees at his performance in France at the Place De La Concorde on Bastille Day, followed by an equally amazing 1.5 million in Houston, Texas, where Jarre was due to play live along with a recorded saxophone piece while in space, by Astronaut Ron McNair, who unfortunately lost his life during the Challenger shuttle explosion in 1986. Years later, Jarre would then go on to break his own world record again, having more than 3.5 million people tune in and attend his live performance at Moscow State University after the release of the second Oxygene album. Jean-Michel Jarre would also become the first Western musician to play in Communist China, after the popularity of Oxygene and Equinoxe in the People's Republic, where the pieces would also be the first of foreign nature to be played to their citizens in decades.
But let's move along, and talk about this great new album, Oxygene 3. A concept originally meant to represent Jarre's concern for the well-being of our planet, and the destruction being wreaked upon it by mankind. Here following in those footsteps almost 40 years later with a reference which couldn't have come at a more delicate time, and surely not by accident. Let's get on witn it!
Starting off we pick up where Jarre left off in 1997 with Oxygene 2 (Pt. 7-13), continuing the story with "Oxygene Pt. 14" on this fascinating new record. Here we find everything we could have hoped to hear from the artist. This gentle intro comes in with thoughtful arpeggios, so subtle and melancholic. I can already hear the concern in Jarre's heart, still so full of hope and eager for everything to turn around. Then come the stabs, a beautiful, elegant, and emotive composition that captivates from the get go, only to draw more suspense and enthusiasm for the rest of what will follow. Hang tight guys!
Next up, Oxygene Pt. 15 continues the mix, which is like many of his albums before, which seamlessly play through into each song, building up ever so gracefully as we begin to find some complex percussive Electro Breaks elements that begin to sneak their way in, glitching and stretching, manipulated with modern techniques that give this one a nice feel; even bringing back little hints of the elements found in the first Oxygene album. This one begins to get a little cold towards the end, as the backdrop seems to disappear while aggressive sequencing continues to build suspense, only to be dropped into a bath of gorgeous melodies that swirl together as we begin to transition over into Pt. 16.
Moving along, part 16 intensifies, like the gathering of a storm that will rain down a cleansing upon the lands. Now we begin to hear the transformation of what Jean-Michel Jarre and his Oxygene series would sound like circa 2017. Warm, acidic sequencing lay down a strict groove, weaving together with gleaming, almost sharp, edgy arpeggios, while pads and strings gallore (Perhaps from his Korg Ensemble) come together to form an absolute masterpiece. Little spacey details, also from the first Oxygene, make their cameos for a short while, as more and more we begin to see that in fact, many of the synths used on the first, are back again. As the lucky owner of many classic analog pieces, like his Fairchild CMI or Arps 2500 and 2600, Jarre is a devout fan of hardware, and someone who like me, would never part with the really great synths in his collection. We can hear why in these pieces!
Oxygene Pt. 17 seems to begin to slow the whole thing down, only to be met by the build-up of rhythmic Electro beats, that launch us towards the beautiful Sun that is Jarre's heart. Here the warmth envelopes us, and reminds us of why all life is of great importance, and we hear that here in full effect in the beautiful passion of the sequences and pads that surround this beautiful track, as the strong rhythms of the beats, more present than in previous parts drive us forward towards Pt. 18.
Next up, Oxygene 18, like in the original Oxygene and even Equinoxe, stops for a small break, punctuated by an emotive piece meant to help us reflect on everything we have just heard. This beautiful synth piano piece is melancholic, so innocent it almost sounds like the birth of a child in motion, pushed up from beneath by warm, analog layers of beautiful pads that remind me a lot of some of Tangerine Dream's "Blue Years" material.
Oxygene Pt. 19 begins to unravel as it descends into a suspenseful, progressive piece that brings in elements of Trance music, created by gleaming arpeggios which are decorated by mysterious brooding synth lines that cut right through your soul. The feeling in this song is incredibly captivating, and has this beautiful progression that leads it away from its darker elements, and into an awe inspiring masterpiece that almost creates the necessity for it to dive straight into the 4th album in the Oxygene series. We can only hope of course!
Lastly, we end this wild and inspiring ride with the 20th part, which with like many of Jarre's endings to his albums, becomes rather abstract, or in some cases even quirky, as witnessed on the some of his previous albums like the toy piano part in Equinoxe for example, which was an unexpected way of bringing closure to something so vastly different. Here, Jarre does not deviate too far from the general vibe, but does introduce samples of cars, and streets, and surprising you with a sample of the ending from the very first Oxygene. Something about the intro in this one in particular, reminds me of Space Odyssey, especially when the astronaut is seeing himself being born and dying at the same time. Profound, and gets even more profound at the end as the majesty of Jarre's strings and what sounds like the dawn of a new world, leave you simply wanting more, and ready to seek out all of his previous works like Zoologic, and Rendes-Vouz.
I cannot say enough what a life-changing album this has been for me alone, and what an amazing thing it is to have one of the pioneers, begin to integrate this type of sound, soulfulness and musical skill into a genre of music oversaturated with commerciality, and a general lack of soul, which in opposite is something so evident not just in Jarre's pieces, but in everything that has stayed closely rooted in the humble and exciting beginnings of a music still in so many ways in its nascent stages.
This album is available in CD format, as well as in Vinyl and digital. Highly reccomended, especially for my Electro Bass, Funk and Pop audience, who not only finds Jean-Michel Jarre a pivotal influence, but would also be delighted to hear the influences of the sound itself in his new and magnificient opus. Get this now!
Reviewed By: Santino Fernandez