Now I can say I’ve had that experience.
Flashback to a record store in 1997 — some 20+ years ago, when I asked my Mom if I could pick out several CDs. She found objections to some of the cover art, but was otherwise agreeable and supportive. I had just sailed past the nascent cusp of discovering electronic music, so these were all “genre” picks. I remember Karma by Delerium, the Lush 3 EP by Orbital — or was it In Sides this time? And did I also get Beyond the Mind’s Eye from Jan Hammer during this trip? Some of that blurs together, but I surely did request Oxygène 7-13 by Jean-Michel Jarre.
How’d I hear of it? Flashback a bit earlier, where I was tuned into MTV Amp that bookmarked the “stateside electronica invasion”, and the airwaves opened me up to the synthesis possibilities beyond. There was this amazingly kinetic, animated video for “Oxygène Part 8” that I recorded to VHS, and kept playing. It would set in motion one of the pillars of my musical philosophy to this day: that music can be both adventurously experimental (weird noises!) AND irresistibly hummable (catchy tune!). They aren’t mutually exclusive.
I’d heard of Jean-Michel Jarre even before that moment, though. Rewind even further, and I’ll recall that the first time I was ever exposed to his music were through some skillfully-transcribed MIDI files that used all manner of trickery to simulate some of his distinctive signatures, like his burbling LFOs and spacey sweeps that wrapped the core melodi sequences in an all-encompassing bliss. The files had odd names (to me at the time) like “EQUINOX4.MID” (8.3 amirite?), and in my naive and unbounded mental meandering, I’d sometimes wonder why you’d give every song on an album the same name, just divided in parts.
I’ve long admired JMJ because of his longevity and consistency (across ANY kind of music, five decades onward!), and more recent, overt ambassadorship to collaborate with other electronic music greats and build bridges across styles in electronic music. Sad thing with myopic “EDM” is the transient “flavor of the month” and accelerated thrust that burns its practitioners out quickly — you need to take care of yourself, and as I write this, I see the tragic news about Avicii. There’s this commercialized drive to do “chase trends” or to “outdo your last” without being clear on what the purpose of it is, or how it comes at the expense of one’s inner voice, with oddly homogeneous tracks sitting atop Beatport and 100 things sounding like they could be made by a single producer.
Striving to be mindful of that, I’d composed a number of homages to what I’ve learned from JMJ’s works — a branch from the same tree that birthed Zoolook’s creative sampling techniques, a vibe which I think has been neglected even amidst so many other explorations.
So it was fitting that when JMJ came and visited in my neck of the woods for the first time, I’d see him in concert, live, after all this time. I played out how it’d happen in my mind, and he delivered beyond expectations. He’s the apex of a showman, more energetic than most performers half his age (and far more visually engaging than any “I see this DJ tapping buttons but not sure what it’s doing or if he’s even playing live”) complete with guitar/keytar/laser harp solos and even “micro cam” performances — yes, the latter was during “Oxygène Part 8” and I went wild!
My other favorite among favorites is his fairly recent collaboration with Armin Van Buuren, “Stardust”, which sounds both comfortingly familiar yet strikingly daring, and has one of the most elegantly constructed “drops/breakdowns” I’ve ever heard, punctuated by crisp tom fills and an essential melody.
Can you spot me?
At this moment, specifically 1:55, I was reminded of why I got into electronic music in the first place, why I love exploring so many sonic possibilities across an always-unfolding palette of playful tools. Whether it’s done in the solace of the studio or delighting a crowd in realtime, I believe, given the vast canvas we have to paint layers on, it’s imperative we producers be as starships, soaring forth to discover emotionally resonant realms of the aural arts.
In a world that is so much hustle and bustle, it’s difficult to find a contemplative moment to sit still and remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. And besides the sheer entertainment value here, I found a profound yet simple truth that brought me back to my roots.
UPDATE: thank you to matrixsynth for capturing this video, where my enthusiasm is also apparent. You should check out his writeup too!