Jean Michel Jarre is back to claim his rightful title as the godfather of electronic with his new album Oxygene 7-13. This is a fresh intake of Oxygene.... and these are soundscapes for the millennium.
In the two decades since that first album started a French revolution in sound that reverberated around the world, Jean Michel Jarre has sold some 55 million records and ensured countless dozens of imitators. Not to mention opening the door for the computerised uprising of the 1990's, from the ambient stylings of Robert Miles to the techno attack of The Prodigy.
Oxygene 7-13 was recorded over a 12-month period at Jarre's studio in Paris, in the home he shares with his wife, Charlotte Rampling, and their three children. From that birthplace, the album will go live in 1997, as Jarre plans his first European arena tour.
That will give audiences the chance to experience his latest electronic adventure in the flesh, as Jarre takes to the road with his distinctive, chugging synthesiser backbeats, his bold washes of textures in sound and those irresistible, expansive lead lines.
To go forward so confidently, Jarre kept ahead of the pack by looking backward. He remains ever the wily musical tactician, as befits someone who was playing piano at his home in Lyon by age five. Jean Michel eschewed this week's newest technological gadgets on the recording of Oxygene 7-13 and returned to the original analogue synthesisers on which he based his very first work in the late 1960's, from his time at the Music Research Group in Paris.
What appealed to Jarre about these old machines - 'the Stradivarius of electronic music', as he calls them - was, what they can't do, as much as what they can. These early analogue synths do not have a memory, so that sounds cannot be replicated. "They were developed by musicians researchers who didn't have to worry about profitability or marketing", he enthuses. "They built their instruments simply because they were enjoying the technology. Which is precisely what Jarre himself continues to do, making synthesiser music a living, breathing thing with a sound that is simply unique, Oxygene 7-13 picks up the theme of the first album and takes the instrumental escapades from Part 7 through to Part 13. It's the upbeat Part 8 that will be the album's first single.
The international audience may have met Jean Michel in 1977, but as we know, his work had extended into many areas of music for several years by then. Leaving the Music Research Group in 1971, he worked in film, theatre, television and commercials, wrote the ballet score AOR for the Paris Opera and the 1973 soundtrack Les Granges Brulees, directed by Jean Chapot and starring two great names of French cinema, Alain Delon and Simone Signoret.
The runaway success of Oxygene unleashed a Whirlwind of studio and stage activity that has rarely let up in the 20 years since. The follow-up album Equinoxe adopted an Antarctic theme and sold a cool seven million copies. Jarre's live show became the stuff of legend, with a reputation that truly stretched around the world: after 1981's Magnetic Fields album, he became the first Western rock artist to perform in China, the tumultuous reception leading to the following year's double album The Concerts In China.
By now Jarre was one of the most successful recording acts in the world, but he remained a maverick talent. In 1983, as a personal statement of distaste for the conveyor-belt fripperies of the music business, he recorded the album Music for Supermarkets and had just one copy pressed. It was auctioned in Paris and eventually aired, but his point has been well made.
In 1984 he adopted an ethnic theme for the operatic Zoolook, on which guest musicians included Laurie Anderson and Adrian (King Crimson) Belew. Before the decade was out, Jarre's status as a premier live attraction was reiterated with two live ablums, 1987's In Concert Lyon/Houston and, two years later, Jarre Live, also as known as Destination Docklands, from his famous 1988 shows in London.
In the 90's, Jarre's musical imagination continued to reach far and wide, from 1990's Waiting For Cousteau, an album inspired by his countryman, marine biologist Jacques Cousteau, to his first-ever stadium correct tour in 1993, to a concert of cultural celebration in Hong Kong, in 1994 and his latest, triumphant Bastille Day show in Paris in 1995. This concert, in front of the Eiffel Tower, was at the special request of UNESCO, for whom he was made a Goodwill Ambassador in 1993.
Jean Michel Jarre's creative span has been boundless, for 20 years as a world star and almost 30 as an inquisitive musician. Oxygene 7-13 is about to reaffirm his place in the cosa nostra of modern sound. Welcome back to the true sonic godfather.