It’s been nearly 40 years since Jean-Michel Jarre released his landmark Oxygène. In the intervening decades, his ambitious, classically-informed approach to electronic music has been expounded upon time and again to the point of becoming almost mainstream in its familiarity and permeation of both television and film as well as on record. And yet as with many such watershed musical moments, the original still retains an exceptionally high standard of excellence and manages to remain relevant. Listening to it today, Oxygène sounds as modern in 2016 as it must have sounded wildly futuristic in 1977. By applying his classical and avant garde education to synthesizers and, on a broader scale, electronic music in general, Jarre managed to revolutionize the genre, pushing the limits beyond mere repetition and strange effects to heretofore unexplored levels of artistry. With a mere six songs in just under 40 minutes, he managed to turn the form on its head and influence several generations of electronic musicians who have since co-opted his approach for their own artistic endeavors.

Some 20 years ago, Jarre released Oxygène 7-13, a continuation of that which he began with the original Oxygène album 20 years prior to that. Where its predecessor worked in fully realized synth textures rooted in a classical music tradition, Oxygène 7-13 worked to incorporate many of the advancements in electronic music made in the intervening years. In addition to Jarre’s recognizable use of synthesizers was an added element of rhythm in the form of propulsive electronic drums that added a level of freneticism to the music, something noticeably lacking in the more plangent Oxygène. Here, Jarre begins to become lost in the host of imitators, the sound of the album coming across now as far more dated than that which came out some 40 years ago. Now 20 years removed from Oxygène 7-13, Jarre once again returns to the serie’s thematic roots with the appropriately titled Oxygène 3.

Given the proliferation of synthesizers within all strata of popular music, where he would choose to take this next round of instrumentals after having delved slightly into the mainstream electronica of 1997 – albeit with a decidedly New Age/Windham Hill bent – would seem an interesting prospect. And while he certainly has added new levels and textures to what is gradually becoming his magnum opus, many of the overarching motifs remain in place. What’s most noticeably different this time around is the greater use of definition within his melodic lines. Where before everything seemed to flow together seamlessly, Oxygène 3 makes greater use of accents and even staccato lines that take the place of the electronic percussion present on Oxygène 7-13. In this, Oxygène 3 has the feel of a Daft Punk album, minus the funkier elements.

Indeed, Oxygène 3 makes plain that the influence runs both ways, as opening track “Oxygène 14” relies on a sound and feel not all that far removed from Daft Punk and even, to a lesser extent, Air. It remains an atmospheric sound, yet one now rooted more in a modernist, melodic context. In this, Oxygène 3 carries on the tradition of the original rather than its predecessor and, in the process, becomes the true spiritual heir to Jarre’s original stylistic innovations on Oxygène. Gone are the makeshift, trendy beats, now replaced by a far more exploratory approach that again sounds at once modern and futuristic.

“Oxygène 15” is all burbling electronics and atmospheric synth textures that continue to draw the direct through line between this and Jarre’s original masterpiece. His reliance on space over claustrophobic instrumentation helps add an air of mysticism and ethereality to the whole of the work. As is often the case with this type of retro-futurist instrumental approach, much of Oxygène 3 sounds as though it were the soundtrack to some lost ‘80s sci-fi or horror classic recently rediscovered and reissued by a label like Waxwork, Death Waltz or Mondo.

With each numerically-titled track flowing seamlessly into the next, there’s often little to no delineation between movements, making it clear the album is meant to be experienced as a whole, uninterrupted piece. This approach furthers the classical allusions, flourishes and motifs used throughout, ultimately placing it well above the many imitators who have come along in the decades since Jarre’s debut. While not nearly the revolutionary release its predecessor was some 40 years ago, Oxygène 3 helps to reaffirm Jarre’s place in the increasingly crowded world of minimalist electronic music that he helped pioneer.

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