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Oxygene 8 - Poetica

Oxygene 8 - PoeticaThe mere mention that Oxygene 8 used Chapman Stick, or ‘Thing’ as it is sometimes humorously referred to, bought my interest. The fact that it was not just a plain old Stick but a midi-Stick and that midi electric guitar, guitar synth and loops were also in the equation really set the mind boggling.  Is it allowed?  Surely the only people in the prog world who dare to dabble in such things are Robert Fripp and Frank Dunnery!  But on Oxygene 8’s debut album, Poetica, the only conventional instruments used are drums and vocals thereby setting a new level of uniqueness.

Oxygene 8 is the brainchild of Linda Cushma (vocals, midi Chapman Stick, guitar synth and loops) and Frank D’Angelo (midi electric guitar, guitar synth and loops).  Joined by ex-Primus member, Tim Alexander (drums) for this album, all but one of the compositions were written by the three (mixing engineer, Jim Hornaday co-wrote Prelude To Larry’s Lullaby).

Poetica is, as anticipated, quite unique in both sound and composition.  Dedicated to Larry Cushma, Linda’s brother, in loving memory, the music finds new directions to explore that you didn’t know existed, touching on textures that haven’t been invented.  Comparison is futile although one could state the obvious and mention 90’s King Crimson with the influence of Porcupine Tree.  However, Oxygene 8 doesn’t lose itself or us in innovation nor does it just rely on strong beats to capture the mood and imagination.  The band also uses melody, sometimes it seems to appear from nowhere, but it is there.  Linda’s vocals are clear and have character.  I am trying to recall the names of certain female vocalists who fronted post-punk ‘new wave’ bands in the late 70’s and early 80’s as Linda’s voice reminds me of them, whoever they are, crossed with Suzanne Vega. The, and I quote, “poignant stream of consciousness lyrics” fit well her voice and my dismal attempt to describe it; they are a blend of observational and sometimes surreal thoughts or musings, a sort of what ‘one is thinking’ rather than ‘what one is saying’.  Sorry if I’ve lost you!

Frank’s mastery of synth and midi of the guitar variety provides vigour on some pieces and atmosphere on others.  Tim’s drumming and Linda’s Stick finger work provide a formidable rhythm section that can be both complex and mesmerising.  I don’t know if Oxygene 8 has or intends to venture out on the concert circuit but I am envious of anyone fortunate enough to catch a live performance.  And for all you Stick lovers, if you thought Tony Levin was good wait until you experience Linda Cushma’s playing.

Poetica has just been released (January 2003) and is available to purchase via the Oxygene 8 website (link below).  Be prepared to be calmed and exhilarated at the same time!

Jem Jedrzejewski


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