Back in 1997, Jean Michel Jarre surprised his fans with the publication of Oxygene 7-13, the continuation of his first success, Oxygene (1976). 21 years after his seminal album, Jarre expected to bring back, although renovated, the analog sounds of 70's electronic music. To achieve it, he displayed through the album's seven tracks all his repertoire of classic synthesizers, "the stradivarius of electronic music", as he called them during each interview of the intense promotion: the Mellotron, VCS3, Eminent 310, TR808 rythm box... In the graphic section he recovered once more a Michel Granger work for the cover, although this time it was much more kind than the famous skull from Oxygene. Listening to Oxygene 7-13 was going to be like visiting an old friend you haven't seen in two decades: the essence remains, but time doesn't go by in vain.
The album opens with the usual large suite that Jarre had incorporated to every album until now. 'Oxygene 7' is divided in three parts: the first uses a simple and catchy melody on top of a rythmic base, heir to that from 'Oxygene 2'; the second is more interesting, modulating the base and overlapping layers of synthetic strings, in transition to the third part. Then the rythm dissappears and the strings combine with sound effects of nature, in a wink to the ecological theme of the first Oxygene. 'Oxygene 8' was the introductory single: a perfect track for radio stations, both for its length and its inspired melody and dynamic rythm, more suitable to 90's electronic music than to space music. Maybe that is why it was rumoured, nearly from the beginning, that this theme was imposed by Sony Music to make the album a best seller.
In 'Oxygene 9' the hommage to the first album is clear, for the theme repeats instrumentation, atmospheres and melodies from 'Oxygene 1' and 'Oxygene 3'. 'Oxygene 10' opens a second half farther from cosmic music and, although still analogic, more contemporary. The track was the second single and introduced, over a repetitive rythm and fast bass sequences, the Theremin as main instrument. 'Oxygene 11' makes intensive use of the sequencer, over which Jarre outlines unfinished melodies, creating a theme nearly experimental which equivalent would be 'Oxygene 5', if you still look for that.
'Oxygene 12' is probably the jewel in the crown. Jarre brings back the melody from 'Oxygene 7', but linked in a fast sequence that mainteins an interwoven dialogue through the track with deep sounds, while a quick rythm sustains everything. Played live, this track was always accompanied by a visual projection of the cycle of life. There is no equivalence in the classical Oxygene to 'Oxygene 12', and it is the proof that Jarre never intended to make a remake, but a reinterpretation of the original concept.
Finally, 'Oxygene 13' is another gesture to the past: the theme is a reimagining of 'Oxygene 6', with a more inspired and touching melody, although simpler. The circle was closed.
The album was an acceptable success and, that same year, Jarre got involved in the 'Oxygene Tour', playing live all around Europe. It had its peak at Moscow, where he played his music in front of 3.5 million people (a concert still in the Guinness Book of Records, for the largest audience ever). Oxygene 7-13 was also the first attempt from Jarre to get closer to the clubs and dance scene: multiple remixes of the tracks were published as singles, and even a full album of dance and techno versions by several Djs and musicians: Odissey through O2.
The fact that it was a conceptual album, the separation in numbered parts, the use of analog synthesizers, a cover by Granger, a long suite, the second and fourth parts as singles... Those characteristics were never more repeated in the following albums, being Metamorphoses (2000) the point of no return. With the perspective of what came after, Oxygene 7-13 can be considered the last classic Jarre work.