The nice thing about having this little spot on the great information super highway is that fellow travelers stop by. We have conversations, share a cup of coffee or a pint of stout, and generally get to know each other, whereas in the real world we couldn’t do that. Having many miles, oceans, and continents in-between us would cause difficulty in those conversations. Hell, those conversations would never have happened if it weren’t for our musings into this great beyond we call the internet. This blogging community of music heads, film geeks, gaming wizards, and general aficionados of those things “regular” folk take for granted is really one of the coolest cliques I’ve ever been involved in. Truth be told, it’s the only clique I’ve ever been involved in. Unless a crowd of five makes for a clique, which I doubt.
So where is this leading you’re probably wondering? Well, thanks to this blogging universe I get some pretty amazing musical recommendations. There’s two guys in-particular that knock ’em out of the digital ballpark nearly every time they post something. Mr. 1537 and Mr. Vinyl Connection , both located somewhere across the Atlantic(and I’m certain read their well-kept album sleeves by candlelight surrounded by mounds of rare vinyl of the progressive/ambient/Italian stoner doom variety in a pre-Victorian castle with a great internet connection apparently), share their musical loves and vinyl finds with the rest of the world on a consistent basis. I’ve heard about more great bands from these two guys in the last two years than I have in ten years of binging on so-called legitimate music blogs. All of us seem to branch off into our own little musical landscapes but time and time again cross paths when it comes to synth music, which leads me to my most recent vinyl purchase: Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene.
Sir 1537 had recommended Mr. Jarre to me a while back while I was waxing ecstatic about some synth record(there have been too many for me to remember exactly which one.) I’m sure it was something like Rudiger Sorenz, Bernard Szajner(Z), or Jonas Munk. Anyways, 1537 said I needed to listen to some Jean Michel Jarre, in particular his album Oxygene. I don’t take those kinds of recommendations lightly, as this UK guy seems to know his stuff. But the name alone sort of put me off. Jean Michel Jarre sounded like the French translation of Jan Michael Vincent to me. Finding pictures of Mr. Jarre on the internet I wasn’t reminded of Mr. Vincent, but there was a certain amount of pretentiousness in those photos that I just couldn’t force myself to dig into the world of the Jarre-heads. I did make an attempt to check his music out and on first listen I was impressed but quickly forgot to go back and give him any more of my headspace(it’s cluttered up there as it is.)
This past Sunday my son and I headed to Fort Wayne, IN for the Record and Collectibles Show. I honestly wasn’t even going to go but I’d mentioned it to my son earlier in the week, so when Sunday morning rolled around he made sure to remind me and seemed pretty excited about going. It’d been over a year since I’d been to one(as the last time we went it was pretty dismal), so I figured what the hell we’ll go. My son headed over to the collectibles side of the building and was lost in deep concentration over hard-to-find, still in packaging action figures and comic books. The first box I hit I found a very clean copy of Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene for $10. It was fate. I perused around a bit more in a room that smelled of fried food, mildew, stale cigarettes, and sadness and my son and I left; he with a Deathstroke and Mr. Sinister action figures and me with a $5 copy of Robert Fripp’s Exposure and Jean Michel Jarre’s Oxygene.
We got home and as I started cooking dinner I put Oxygene on the turntable. I have to say, I quite like it. The more I spin it the more it grows on me. It tows the line of melodramatic and spooky quite nicely. One more swath of synth string here, or one more theremin wail there and it may have gone into cheesy territory. Fortunately, Jarre seems pretty adept at creating beautiful aural tapestries that pull at the heartstrings and take you into some other world. Listening to the second half of “Oxygene Pt: 5” I was immediately struck by the krautrock vibe, which in turn reminded me of Jonas Munk’s excellent Pan album. Maybe Munk was tipping his hat to Jarre in that album’s opener “Orca”. Maybe he wasn’t. Either way, Jarre is in there in some way or form.
There’s an overwhelming gothic presence here as well. It’s like soundtracking a jaunt through a spooky castle in outer space, as “Oxygene Pt: 3” sounds like entrance into some abandoned, chromed-out space castle. At times I’m reminded of some of my favorite horror scores as well, especially Walter Rizzati’s House By The Cemetery and Malcolm Seagrave and Fred Myrow’s Phantasm score. Very heavy on the melancholy and baroque loneliness. Of course you can’t listen to a synth-heavy, atmospheric record from the 70s and not think of Tangerine Dream. Not so much the darkness of something like Phaedra, more like Tangram. Oxygene delivers on several levels here. I’m happy I found a copy to wear out.
I’ve heard Jean Michel Jarre’s Equinoxe is another great album, but beyond that I’m not sure I’ll venture out too much. I feel Oxygene might just have everything I need from Mr. Jarre.
So once again, my blogging friends have come through. It seems Jean Michel Jarre is nothing like Jan Michael Vincent, and that’s a really good thing. For me, and for Jean Michel Jarre.