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:

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