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Jean-Michel Jarre - Oxygène 3 CD (album) cover

OXYGÈNE 3

Jean-Michel Jarre

 

Prog Related

2.81 | 15 ratings

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Aussie-Byrd-Brother
Special Collaborator
Rock Progressivo Italiano Team
3 stars French composer Jean-Michel Jarre hardly needs an introduction, a pioneering artist in the electronic, ambient and new-age styles, responsible for one of the biggest selling albums in those genres with the ground-breaking original `Oxygène' in 1976, a work that was cutting-edge, experimental yet also completely accessible and highly melodic. Along with several other worthwhile releases since then, including an official sequel in 1997 with `Oxygène 7-13', the approaching fortieth anniversary of the original album spurred the artist into creating a third volume, 2016's `Oxygène 3', recorded in exactly six weeks just like the defining first release was in the hope of catching the same fire and inspiration. The results are a decidedly mixed bag, balancing a continuous cross between harmless lightweight electronica that barely lifts above being a pleasant background experience of little depth with more substantial atmospheric and ambient contemplations.

While it's completely unreasonable to have expected `Oxygène 3' to be another innovative release in the manner of the first album, it's a little underwhelming how...anonymous some initial stretches of the album sounds, and often dominated by obnoxious beats that are overly loud and drown out the more interesting aspects of the music. Admittedly the album is not helped by putting its poorest piece, `Oxygène Pt 14', first, a sort of bland, faceless and clichéd electronica number, the kind that hundreds of artists working in the style are putting out these days. But some of those instantly recognisable gentle washes of serene ambient caresses that Jarre is known for slowly emerge around twitching low-key trance-like chilled beats in the more subtle `Pt 15', with some melting synth bleeds and brooding light-industrial machine groaning in the later minutes proving most surprising. Following on, bubbling liquid electronics and weeping strains flitting around moody orchestral-flavoured synth themes that attempt to break out of `Pt 16' are again sadly restrained by lazy dance beats, but the piece is thankfully redeemed by an unexpected gloomier drone in the second half.

The confident `Oxygène Pt 17' that opens the second side offers energetic bouncing beats, an upfront lead electric piano melody and a whirling fanfare-like synth theme, but only once it's out of the way do the really interesting moments of the disc appear. `Pt 18' is a delicate haunting electric piano interlude over ethereal stillness that holds a gentle warmth, `Pt 19' flirts with trance-like beats that attempt to grow in stature but never take hold over inhaling/exhaling breaths and rising/falling Seventies-flavoured keyboard veils, and glitching cut-up organ bursts punctuate the elegant eight-minute closer `Pt 20' (the absolute highlight of the set), as stormy rumbles and fuzzy trickles fuse together with sombre cinematic-styled drones that rise in stirring power and presence.

To its credit, `Oxygène 3' improves on multiple replays (definitely don't dismiss it on one initial underwhelming listen) and is at least frequently melodic, mostly remaining an undemanding and unobtrusive surface-level listen, as well as being thankfully vinyl-length too, a format that suits these kind of albums well and keeps it in line with the previous volumes. Other than appealing to long-time die-hard Jarre followers, there's perhaps not a lot here to inspire a wave of new listeners or much that will impress more casual electronic fans, but a few quietly tasteful and restrained intelligent pieces more befitting of a legend of the above-mentioned genres do emerge, and it makes for a worthwhile addition from the artist.

Three stars.

(Oh, and add a bonus point for the photo of Jarre on the back-cover with the SPECTACULAR hair!)

Aussie-Byrd-Brother | 3/5 |

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