| Enigma:MCMXC a.D.|
(Charisma/Virgin - 1990)
Not quite ambient, not quite dance, not quite new age, but really quite wonderful. I understand this CD was on the "charts" for 2 or 3 years and justifiably so (and very surprising in the hot today-cold tomorrow world of the pop charts).
|I can quite frankly live without the opening sequence, The Voice of Enigma. It's a bit too "new age" for me, in the worst sense of that much maligned term.
But the next 3 songs span 20 of the smoothest recorded minutes I've ever heard! It all just oozes with a sophisticated coolness... the luscious beats, the breathy French(?) vocals, the silky instrumentation, and lastly, but certainly not least, oh, those chants.
The Principles of Lust is a 3-part song, a true masterpiece, bringing all those elements into play. Callas Went Away loses the male choir, but gives us soft piano tones, quiet bird sounds, and a female opera voice (Maria Callas maybe?). The monks return though, in Mea Culpa which sports a more aggressive beat, a bit of lite-metal guitar and some wonderful woodwind-type synths.
The Voice and The Snake leaves me with the same feeling as the opening track, although it utilizes a pseudo-mass of some sort. I just don't get into it, but it's short.
We get back to Enigma's basics (electronic rythyms, beautifully new-agey synths, the vocals and choir) with Knocking on Forbidden Doors. It's unfair to personally pigeonhole the wonderful artists involved, but in my mind, this is what they do best.
The formula works again in the final 3-part track, Back to the Rivers of Belief, up the point Curly M.C. (or whoever?) decides to sing. The track begins with some beautiful ambience, takes on a smooth beat, mixes in some low-key shards of speech and arabic-sounding chant, and then his vocal refrain comes in in an overly earnest pop-rock way. It doesn't ruin the song, but weakens in it my opinion.
|I have to point one up on this. Despite a couple of weak links, the total package is one of true artistry. I've heard debates over where the whole chants and dance thing began, but there's no doubt that this CD is what catapulted that particular sound combination into a limelight of its own. If you want to know more, there are plenty of good Enigma resources on the web.|