Monday, December 29, 2008

Enigma - MCMXC a.D. (1990)

Enigma's MCMXC a.D. was a huge hit worldwide, and along with Enya brought New Age into the mainstream. Is it worthy of the title King (or Queen) of New Age?

First, some of the negatives out of the way. It sounds dated. Very dated. Especially when you consider the amount of similar-sounding drivel it inspired. The drums are a major part of this, being very 80's-ish and artificial sounding, which is a shame. They also re-use the same drum loops a lot, which I'll get to later.

On the positive side, MCMXC a.D. is incredibly easy to listen to. It may sound silly, but I'm really sick of EDM artists, and especially ambient/downtempo/new age artists, thinking they need to use every single second of a CD. At a scant 40 minutes, MCMXC a.D. suits me.

And of course, all the songs are good. After the hilariously cheesy The Voice of Enigma, where we are told a bunch of meditation nonsense (I do know how to relax, thank you), the big single of the album emerges; Sadeness. Sadeness is nothing short of brilliant, a mix of eroticism and religion, with intertwining parts of mesmerising flute, Gregorian chants, evocative French vocals and even a hint of panting.

The rest of MCMXC a.D. is more of the same, just done a little differently. Callas Went Away has its piano and operatic wailing, Mea Culpa it's interesting guitar solo, and Knocking on the Forbidden Door it's wild animal cries.

Back to the Rivers of Belief is the other somewhat intriuging song, but it has exactly the same drums as the earlier Sadeness. Michael Cretu, head guy behind Enigma, provides vocals for the later part, and they surprisingly fit in well, but there is a heavy sense that this Belief is just a poorer version of Sadeness.

I enjoyed MCMXC a.D. enough that when I saw it cheap, I got it, but I wouldn't pay a lot. It's still by far the best New Age album I've heard, but really, there isn't a lot of competition, at least in my opinion.

Here's a link to Sadeness:

Friday, December 19, 2008

Salt Tank - ST 3 (1994)

Even though I'm a huge fan of Ibiza trance, it has to be one of the least diverse trance genres ever. I mean, it's a given, as it has to evoke feelings and memories of oceans, beaches and sea wildlife, or else it just isn't Ibiza trance. But still, more then half of Salt Tank's ST 3 is basically a remix of one song.

That song is a cracker though. Pacific Diva is one of the all time great trance songs. It transports you to the middle of the ocean, floating on the surface, hearing the distant cries of whales and other creatures, the beautiful and resonate strings, before morphing into a classic trance track for the last few minutes.

Sargasso Sea is the first remix of Pacific Diva, but enough has changed to make it a separate entity. We are now under the sea, I can feel the water pressure as I casually drift along, and can hear the seagulls talk, as well as my lulled heartbeat.

We finally see some diversity on Charged Up, where hard drums and drops of acid overcome a soft synth background. Clone is also a bit more upbeat, with some psy influences. Waimea Wilderness is a remix of Sargasso Sea, so in essence, a remix of a remix. It's passable, but honestly, I've already heard it before, and done much better.

Charged in Zion Canyon thankfully breaks to tedium with a mix of eccentric world beat and a groovy bassline. The album finishes with yet another remix of Pacific Diva, which is more like a shortening, called Eugina. You might as well relisten to Pacific Diva.

All up, Pacific Diva, Sargasso Sea, and Charged in Zion Canyon are all great songs, but the rest of the material on ST 3 is either a barely changed remix of a song already on the album, or not particularly good. And while Sargasso and Zion are good, I would recommend just trying to chase up Pacific Diva or Eugina elsewhere.

Here's the link to a shortened version of Eugina:

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Adam Freeland - The Hate EP (2007)

I do seem to recall making a statement earlier, speaking of my distain for noisy and abrasive techno. Well, that is exactly what Adam Freeland's The Hate EP is; harsh, metallic, and grating to the extreme. But it pulls it off so very well, in an impressive EP for the now well known Freeland.

The self-title Hate is an absolutely brilliant track, with its pumping beat and captivating rhythms that will lodge themselves in your head for days. Where's Our God Now reminds me of a more acidic version of Daft Punk's Robot Rock, with it's heavily distorted guitar riff and bass drums. Glowsticks adds a hint of glitch to the formula, before the EP thankfully ends before outstaying its welcome.

What makes The Hate EP appealing to someone like myself is the mixture of the catchy aspects of house and the jarry and scratchy elements of techno. Much like Akufen's My Way, it shouldn't work at all, but it does. Freeland manages to create melodies where there are none, and fills the holes with pounding drums to make something great.

Here's a link to the song Hate: