Best known for pioneering (but overplayed) electronic number Oxygène IV, French synth twiddler Jean-Michel Jarre also has an ambient side. And with EōN, he gets to squirt his inner Eno into your mobile device, with an organic art/music piece that never stops.
It’s infinite Jarre. Depending on your musical bent, that might be the most exciting thing ever, or horrifying. As someone fond of Jarre, but a touch suspicious of almost everything he’s released since 1986, I went in open minded but sceptical.
Four hours later, I was a convert. In fact, EōN may be the best thing Jarre’s done since Équinoxe. And even if you don’t consider yourself a fan, the experience of EōN is one to savour, at least should you have any interest in generative music and algorithmic art.
To infinity and beyond
Launch the app and it immediately starts pumping out audio and visuals. The music is generated by an engine called BLEASS, based on Jarre compositions. The visuals were created by Alexis André of Sony Computer Science Laboratories, and vary from pop-like lights flickering across your screen to strange mutating planets whose tendrils interlink like they’re eating each other or having sex. Or possibly both.
There’s no interactivity, which is a pity. Some of the visuals beg to be played with. You’ll want to muck about with their appearance and interrupt their pathways. But EōN is closer in nature to Brian Eno : Reflection than Bloom: 10 Worlds. It invites you to sit back, watch and listen – but not to play.
With music being an expression of its creator, it should also come as no surprise that while the basic concept of EōN – endless generative audio – echoes the Eno apps, Jarre’s feels very different. Mostly, this is down to approach and style.
Jarre Jarre syncs
The Eno apps are all about restraint, but EōN’s visuals really go for it, blazing eye-searing beauty across your display that syncs with the beat. It’s like a Jarre lightshow concert in microcosm.
The audio, too, is distinct. Eno’s Reflection was an exercise in meditative, thoughtful ambience – the musical equivalent of a river. With EōN, Jarre motifs are apparent throughout, with his trademark beats and synths flickering away. It’s like you’ve tied Jarre to an office chair, given him a synth, and demanded an endless remix in return for food and water.
EōN also feels quite traditional at times. Although they’re randomised, there are clearly individual ‘tracks’ of sorts within the engine – only BLEASS reworks them each time they’re played. Sometimes, transitions between these components are a touch discordant – a rare EōN slip. Otherwise, this app is an audio and visual joy.
EōN by Jean-Michel Jarre is available for iOS. An Android version is planned for 2020.