When electronic act Enigma invaded the airwaves in 1990, nobody could reveal their music’s charm. The spiritual and erotic blended with sampling reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre, emanating an irresistible scent of sin. “What is this new music?” Bob Mack wrote in Spin magazine. “Umberto Eco reading his performs on prime of a backbeat?”
Faithful to their name, Enigma established a space for the mysterious and the forbidden to prosper, eventually securing a recreation-altering reputation in dance audio even though at the very same time reinventing the new-age style. The mastermind guiding the band was Michael Cretu, a Romanian-German musician whose credits provided participating in keyboards on Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon, co-manufacturing Mike Oldfield’s Islands and crafting prompt hits this kind of as Maria Magdalena for his then spouse, the German synthpop star Sandra.
It was just after experimenting with Gregorian chants on Sandra’s version of Everlasting Like that Cretu made a decision to examine this route further. Retiring to his Artwork Studios in Ibiza with producers Frank Peterson and Fabrice Cuitad, he conceived the seem of Enigma, combining worldbeat, ambient and electronica with imagery evoking the religious and profane.
The final result was MCMXC a.D., a 40-minute work as powerful as a ritual of demonic invocation. The album went triple-platinum in the United kingdom, sold 4m copies in the US and topped the charts globally.
The controversy it sparked didn’t harm, either. The backwards chanting and lyrical references to the Marquis de Sade had been blasphemous plenty of for the Vatican to ban the single Sadeness (Portion I) from the radio stations it controlled, a transfer that need to have pleased each the label and Cretu himself immediately after all, you can’t get publicity like that.
MCMXC a.D. propelled a revolution within just the new-age niche, which right until then experienced been typically ploughing the prog terrain. As DJs carried the gospel ahead, the album became an indeniable pioneer of the genre’s crossover to 90s rave and Eurodance society, with Ace of Base’s 1992 breakthrough Delighted Country staying a key illustration. Enigma’s legacy also endures: in 2016 their eighth album, The Slide of a Rebel Angel, entered Billboard’s Dance/Electronica chart at No 1 – the same calendar year Possibility the Rapper sampled Enigma in his demo of Kanye West’s Waves.
Uncertainties on whether or not MCMXC a.D. was mere beginner’s luck shortly dissipated when Enigma adopted it up with the inescapable Return to Innocence, replacing the Gregorian chants with buoyant rhythms and numerology-primarily based lyrics. “[These are] music for meditation or copulation, whichever a single you favor,” journalist Staci Bonner wrote. The magic of Enigma lies exactly in inciting the two at the same time.
Enigma’s The Full Studio Collection is out now