Tuesday Tunes: Oxygene

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As a rule I find lyrics distracting while I write, so a lot of my writing music is atmospheric electronica – and there is only one place to start when reviewing that particular sub-genre.

Oxygene is Jean Michel Jarre’s first ‘proper’ album, released in 1976, and pretty well defined electronic music. Kraftwerk may have already brought the world Autobahn, but Oxygene raised the bar in terms of sophistication and complexity.

The album starts, rather predictably, with Oxygene Part I (Jarre broke more ‘rules’ by not giving individual tracks titles) a low key yet strangely epic piece, which segues into the similarly relaxing Oxygene Part II, which has some brilliantly spacey synths.

Part III is much shorter, and brings the first, atmospheric half of Oxygene to a close before launching into the more poppy (can you guess?) Part IV – there’s a good chance you know Oxygene Part IV, even if you don’t know that you know it.

Part V is a ten minute epic in itself, starting out slow and relaxing, with a more upbeat tone coming in halfway through and building to nice melodic finish, which then fades back down to the sound of waves breaking, which leads is into the finale, which is mellow, atmospheric, and tuneful, pretty much the perfect way to end the album.

Stand out track: hard to pick one, really, as this works as a single, 40 minute piece. Part I is a contender by virtue of being on the soundtrack to my novel, Countless as the Stars, and Part IV is kind of infectious. However, I would have to opt for Part VI as the standout track, bringing together the best elements of the album as a whole.

Oxygene is one of those genre-defining pieces that only come along occasionally, an album that feels almost as fresh as it must have done in 1976. Coming right at the beginning of Jarre’s career it must have been a huge challenge for him to follow up.

If you have even a passing interest in music and haven’t heard this, you really should.

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