‘Meditation and Lovemaking’: How ’90s Dance Number Enigma Propelled a New Age Revolution

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‘Meditation and Lovemaking’: How ’90s Dance Number Enigma Propelled a New Age Revolution


When the electronic group Enigma hit the airwaves in 1990, no one could explain the appeal of their music. The spiritual and the erotic mingle with samples reminiscent of Jean-Michel Jarre, releasing an irresistible fragrance of sin. “What is this music? Bob Mack wrote in Spin magazine. “Umberto Eco reads his works on a backbeat?

True to its name, Enigma created a space for the mysterious and forbidden to flourish, ultimately securing a revolutionary reputation within dance music while reinventing the new-age genre. The mastermind behind the group was Michael Cretu, a Romanian-German musician whose credits included playing keyboards on Boney M’s Rivers of Babylon, co-producing Mike Oldfield’s Islands and creating instant hits such as Maria Magdalena for his then-wife, German synthpop star Sandra. .

It was after experimenting with Gregorian chants on Sandra’s version of Everlasting Love that Cretu decided to explore this path further. Retired in his ART Studios in Ibiza with producers Frank Peterson and Fabrice Cuitad, he designed the sound of Enigma, combining worldbeat, ambient and electronica with images evoking the religious and the secular.

The result was MCMXC aD, a 40 minute work as intense as a demonic summoning ritual. The album went triple platinum in the UK, sold 4 million copies in the US and topped the global charts.

The controversy it sparked didn’t hurt either. The backwards vocals and lyrical references to the Marquis de Sade were blasphemous enough that the Vatican banned the single Sadeness (Part I) from the radio stations it controlled, a move that must have pleased both the label and to Cretu himself; after all, you can’t buy advertising like that.

MCMXC aD has propelled a revolution in the New Age niche, which until then had mainly plowed progressive ground. As DJs carried the gospel, the album became an undisputed pioneer of the genre’s intersection with ’90s rave and Eurodance culture, with Ace of Base’s 1992 breakthrough, Happy Nation, in being a prime example. Enigma’s legacy also lives on: in 2016, their eighth album, The Fall of a Rebel Angel, entered Billboard’s Dance / Electronica charts at number 1 – that same year, Chance the Rapper sampled Enigma in its demo. by Kanye West’s Waves.

Doubts about whether MCMXC aD was just a beginner’s chance were quickly dispelled when Enigma followed him up with the staple Return to Innocence, replacing Gregorian chants with catchy beats and lyrics based on numerology. ” [These are] songs for meditation or lovemaking, whichever you prefer, ”wrote journalist Staci Bonner. The magic of Enigma lies precisely in the incitement of both simultaneously.

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