With an all-analog audio path, and rock-solid digital harmonic oscillators, the RMI Harmonic Synthesizer was the world’s first digital synthesizer. Produced in very limited quantities for a very short period in the mid-1970s. The synth is best known for its prominent role in Jean-Michel Jarre’s classic Oxygène, where it was used extensively (and usually through an Electric Mistress flanger) for basses (Parts II and IV), leads (Parts IV and V) and sequences (Part V), the RMI was almost a decade ahead of its time.
Jiggery-Poker has now released a promising recreation of this beautiful, and exceptionally ultra-rare, classic American synthesizer. With surprisingly deep but clean and harmonically rich basses and cutting leads, this restored version improves on the original by adding extra features such as a 4-stage envelope and polyphony, it’s slightly lo-fi waveform will add a unique character and texture to your tracks.
Listen and compare below:
Comment to the video:
The video is a recreation of Jean Michel Jarre’s seminal Oxygene Part IV, solely in Reason, using virtual recreations to replace the original RMI Harmonic Synthesizer, Eminent 310U and Korg Minipops used. The main saw lead is provided by Thor. The aim here was not to create a literal copy of the original sound (otherwise one might as well just play the original recording!) but it’s more a demonstration in the spirit. However near-accurate recreation of the Harmonic Synthesizer should be possible with some patient adjustments and a similar effects chain. The chorus lead settings used here are taken from video footage of Jarre playing the RMI, but note that since the exact volume curve of the JPS harmonic sliders may not match the RMI (as we had to guess and therefore chose to create a nice, sensible curve that works) additional tweaking by ear would be necessary.
Oxygène was first released in France in December 1976, on Disques Dreyfus with license to Polydor. The album’s international release was in summer 1977. Jarre recorded the album in his home using a variety of analog synthesizers and other electronic instruments and effects. It became a bestseller and was Jarre’s first album to achieve mainstream success. It was also highly influential in the development of electronic music and has been described as the album that “led the synthesizer revolution of the Seventies”
Music video by Jean-Michel Jarre performing Oxygene, Pt. 4. (C) 1977 Music Affair Entertainment Ltd. under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment Germany GmbH
Prior to 1976, Jarre had dabbled in a number of projects, including an unsuccessful synthesizer music album, advertising jingles and compositions for a ballet. His inspiration for Oxygène came from a painting by the artist Michel Granger (given to Jarre by his future wife Charlotte Rampling), which showed the Earth peeling to reveal a skull. Jarre obtained the artist’s permission to use the image for this album.
Jarre composed Oxygène over a period of eight months using a number of analogue synthesizers and an eight-track recorder set up in the kitchen of his apartment. However, he found it difficult to get the record released, not least because it had “No singers, no proper [track] titles, just ‘I’, ‘II’, ‘III’, ‘IV’, ‘V’ and ‘VI'”.
The motif of the track “Oxygène Part IV” is a variation on a phrase from “Popcorn” by Gershon Kingsley, which Jarre himself had previously covered under the pseudonyms of “The Popcorn Orchestra” and “Jamie Jefferson”.