Thursday, 29 May 2014

Oxygène... remastered

Jean Michel Jarre's pioneering album Oxygène has just been remastered and reissued along with half a dozen of his other albums. Anybody who has followed my work or read my website will already know my adoration for Jarre's music – without this album, I probably wouldn't have ever attempted making my own music.

Everybody has a particular album that they grew up with, and that had a particular influence or even life-changing effect – for me, Oxygène is one of those albums. It slots right into my creativity and way of thinking.

Although it doesn't cater for every taste, for me, it is one of those timeless, tireless albums. In a strange way it sounds both of its time and ahead of its time – at the same time! Though the album may be pushing 40, I still get the same excitement, inspiration and escapism from it as the first time I heard it in the early 1980s. The 2014 remaster comes with new liner notes and faithfully restored artwork (and a slightly bolder typeface if you want to be really picky!), but the music sounds as fresh as ever – in fact I even heard some bass notes that I'd never noticed before.

A feast for both the ears and imagination, there's an almost organic quality to the music through its evolving textures and atmospheres – hard to believe it was recorded on a mere eight tracks!

While Oxygène is the album that propelled Jarre to superstardom and defined an era of electronic music, it's easy to overlook the fact that it very nearly didn't get released at all.

In 1976, the 28-year-old Jarre's small Parisian apartment was a mass of analogue synthesisers, keyboards and drum machines, spilling through into his kitchen where an eight-track tape recorder would capture the burbles and swirls that would be part of the defining and distinctive sound of Oxygène.

Having composed and recorded this electronic opus of six movements all by himself, Jarre was repeatedly turned down by the French record labels on the grounds they could not market music with no vocals or that was not radio-friendly. French publisher Francis Dreyfus eventually saw potential in Jarre’s work and tentatively pressed 50,000 copies. Nobody was quite prepared for the global success of the album, that would go on to sell in excess of 15 million copies!

That little story in itself always inspires me - as it should inspire any musician or artist. When I listen to the album, although part of my mind wants to drift away with the sounds, I think about Jarre's struggle in 1970s Paris; surely one of the first home-based "D.I.Y" electronic musicians, of which I am now one, among countless others, thanks to the wonders of modern technology.

But this is the one album I always turn to when it comes to making music. The fact I can still gleam something new from it after hearing it thousands of times and that it still somehow drives me to make my own kind of music is something I'm constantly grateful for.

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