The pioneering electronic-music composer Jean Michel Jarre has been a household name among the beat-minded since his 1976 Oxygene LP but has also been surprisingly absent from many conversations about all-time favorites. The album, a multi-million selling smash hit, is often cited for spawning the widespread use of analogue synthesizers but plays today like many early electronic compositions as a curious dream world of possibilities. The notion of a completely instrumental record with no ready-made single (each of the album’s six tracks are titled in roman numerals, from "I" to "VI") for a pop audience was indeed bold and revolutionary, but the album is perhaps better known for spawning a series of great songs by brilliant artists — who often gather the lion’s share of attention.
Phantom Sound & Vision addresses this oversight by lovingly reissuing Oxygene in three formats: as a single CD containing the original album; as a two-disc package with the CD and a DVD of Jarre’s 2007 performance re-creating the album; and a limited-edition version that takes the two discs and adds a stereoscopic 3-D high-def option (and not one but two pairs of 3-D glasses).
The latter two packages are exceptional for not only reintroducing the album, but for also offering a visual spectacle that reflects the album’s largesse. Jarre and three musicians cycle seamlessly through about thirty synthesizers and processors that fill an entire stage and gently unfold the album’s thick layers of sound and texture.
Though the 3-D glasses are a bit gimmicky — a good substitute would be a cup of your favorite mushroom tea — the performance itself is a wonderful summary of Jarre’s broad and prescient vision for integrating automated instruments and human chance.