Like someone stuffed a French synth-twiddler into your device and had them play – forever
Size: 383.1 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Developer: Jean-Michel Jarre
Music at its core is a set of rules. A composer defines those rules, and you hear the results, as interpreted by instrumentation and human performance. With EōN, the director is an algorithm, endlessly reworking and remixing pieces of music, based on compositional ideas created by synth pioneer Jean-Michel Jarre.
This is a world away from hit album Oxygène, which will never change, no matter how many times you press play. With EōN, the experience is always different – sometimes subtly, and sometimes rather more overtly. Unlike the more meditative river-like audio of Brian Eno’s Reflections, there are tracks of sorts in EōN – but you don’t get to decide what plays next, and what you hear will often be familiar, but different.
Generative audio requires a change in thinking about the nature of recorded music, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less rewarding. Sure, you won’t be skipping to your favorite bit any time on EōN, unless you resort to recording the app to create a snapshot, cutting up the audio file, naming the tracks, loading them into Music, and hoping Jean-Michel Jarre’s lawyers aren’t watching. Instead, it’s designed as a holistic experience. But even so, the music you get is varied, and packed full of Jarre’s trademark synth washes and flickering rhythms. It really does feel like someone’s stuffed the Frenchman into your device, and demanded he endlessly remix an album for your listening pleasure.
There’s a visual component, too. Alexis André of Sony Computer Science Laboratories has worked wonders in creating some eye-popping accompaniment for each of the sort-of tracks within EōN. These vary wildly, from disco-like beat-synced dots and patterns to hypnotic morphing shapes. The result is akin to a miniaturized Jarre concert on your screen, and proves especially effective on iPad. Sadly, there’s no Apple TV version – EōN would look fantastic running natively on the big screen.
Of course, whether you should actually buy EōN is another matter. It’s worth noting that there is no interactivity whatsoever – this is a passive app, not an instrument to play. If you want generative audio systems to fiddle around with, go for Bloom: 10 Worlds. But for everything else, EōN hits a sweet spot: at 380 MB, it’s not too weighty for permanent installation; it’s an excellent docked app on iPhone and iPad alike; and it’s a useful aid for relaxation, or when you just need to block out the world. Moreover, in costing about the same as a traditional album, EōN represents good value, given that you could conceivably fire the thing up a million times and never hear quite the same thing twice.