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

OXYGÈNE 3

Jean-Michel Jarre

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2 stars

Sounds more or less like a cross between Oxygène 7-13 and the unfortunate Téo & Téa. There's not much left of the original Oxygène here; sadly, rather than building on it, Jarre has instead diluted it with generic "modern" tones at least ten years out of date. No word on whether or not they're presets, like on Téo & Téa, but either way, they're far below Jarre's standards.

As for the songs themselves, they're barely there. Jarre often contents himself with noodling over a basic groove, and when he reaches further, it's usually to crib from Oxygène 7-13 ("Part 16" and "Part 19") or Chronologie ("Part 17"). The closing track tries to put a big, dramatic finale on the "trilogy", but it hardly rises to the occasion - playing a few arbitrary chords louder and louder and LOUDER isn't actually moving, and the self-mythologizing sample of the original album's "Part 6" really doesn't help.

Let me be clear: This is not a terrible album. Those huge, lovely Oxygène tones are still there to fill up the sound, and apart from a few, uh, jarring lapses of taste (What the HECK is going on at the beginning of "Part 20"?), it all goes down smoothly enough. But when those old-fashioned sounds have to share the mix with chintzy plastic crap straight out of Newgrounds, and when it all exits my mind as easily as it enters, neither of those counts for much. At its best, this just makes me want to listen to Oxygène 7-13 again, and at its worst, it makes me wonder if it's even Jarre I'm hearing in the first place.

Report this review (#1665975)
Posted Friday, December 9, 2016 | Review Permalink
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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!)

Report this review (#1666874)
Posted Monday, December 12, 2016 | Review Permalink
3 stars It's easy tp dump on Jarre like Mike Oldfield. Oldfield has a habit of doing so many Tubular Bells sequels and remakes that you get the feeling that it's just done for the money. After all, Tubular Bells was Oldfield's defining album and he has a habit of revisiting it every time his sales start to slump (Tubular Bells II, for example, came right after Heaven's Open, which wasn't exactly a seller, nor exactly a winner with his fans). Jarre is doing the same with Oxygene. There's the original from 1976. Then there's Oxygene 7-13. To be honest, the album had a mixed reaction. Many thought it was just a rehash and should not have been recorded. For me, I actually enjoy the album, and yes, there's no denying it's a rehash, although there's a bit of elements of Equinoxe and the spectre of Chronologie (his previous album) still loomed (the techno influences, for example). Then there's Oxygene: New Master Recording to demonstrate he can recreate the original some thirty years later. Now there's Oxygene 3. I wasn't expecting a whole lot. I didn't bother buying anything he did between 7-13 and this one, so I never got to hear Metamorphoses, Geometry of Love, Teo & Tea, or the two Electronica albums. But then hearing not exactly glowing reviews for those albums made me suspicious. Oxygene 3 is really Oxygene 14-20, as Oxygene 3 sounds like he was revisiting "Oxygene Part 3" from the 1976 original, which is hardly the case. Actually I'm actually quite happy with the album. I can see why it will get dismissed, but to my ears it doesn't totally rehash the original. I hear elements of the original, like the phased Eminent 310, but sonic-wise it would be very out of place on the original. "Part 17" is a more pop-oriented number, he's obviously wanting to record a song in the vein of "Oxygene Part IV" or "Equinoxe Part V". "Part 18" is an ambient piece, at first it sounds a bit on the New Age side. "Part 19" is more rhythmic, while "Part 20" has a rather obvious "Part 6" reference, but by and far, a largely ambient piece. "Part 14" to "Part 16" demonstrates that he wasn't trying to rehash the original. I actually found this album quite enjoyable, despite low expectations. Jarre pretty much had the idea of what Oxygene would sound like in 2016 with how he would approach it now, not in 1976. I won't lie and claim this is just as great as the original, even I couldn't say that for 7-13, but I actually found it quite good. It's no substitute for the original, but then, what is.
Report this review (#1706937)
Posted Friday, March 31, 2017 | Review Permalink

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