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Enigma: MCMXC A.D. (1990)

coverNow here’s an odd album. Odd, only because it’s a dance album I actually like. I generally don’t go for dance music, but Enigma was that rare example of making dance music actually interesting!

Actually Enigma was less a band and more the brainchild of Romanian-born Michael Cretu. He had already released a few albums and singles under his own name since the late 1970s. MCMXC a.D., so named because MCMXC is the Roman numerals for 1990 (the album was released in Europe in December 1990, but not released in America until February 1991) was the very first Enigma album, as as far as I’m concerned, Enigma’s most consistent work (I found their following albums a bit more inconsistent, even though they too had some good material).

Back in November 1990, I was watching MuchMusic (Canada’s answer to MTV, which I thought was more interesting than MTV at that time, in my book) on the satellite dish (I was living in Florence, Oregon at the time) and there was this video being played on CityLimits (a show that played lots of underground/alternative/experimental/indie music) and they were airing this video to Enigma called “Sadeness”. I was totally tripping. This was dance music, but that gloomy atmosphere, the Gregorian chants, and these electronic flutes really got to me. I was wondering if an Enigma album would become available in America soon, which I’m glad it did. Anyway, “Sadeness” was the hit off MCMXC a.D., but it was actually released as a single a couple months before the album came out, so it gave people an idea of the Enigma sound before they got their album finished.

If you like the sound of “Sadeness”, you’re bound to like the rest of this album. It’s basically one long continuous play, each song is segued in to one another. The opening cut is “The Voice of Enigma”, it’s purely an ambient piece, with the lady speaking: “This is the voice of Enigma”, this song then segues in to a three piece suite called “The Priciples of Lust”, which starts off with “Sadeness”. The song consists of spoken dialog in French and English. It’s basically in honor of Marquis de Sade. Because of the sexual overtone placed over Gregorian chants, it’s obvious that the Catholic community didn’t take too well to this album. The second movement is “Find Love” before the reprise of “Sadeness”. The next song, “Callas Went Away” is a more mellow number. It’s just so dark and gloomy, it just leaves me speechless.

“Mea Culpa” was the other hit on the album. It starts with the sound of thunder, church bells ringing, and rain, as it turns out, it was Cretu sampling the opening of Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut album. This is one of the faster numbers, and was obviously meant for the dance floor. But not too many dance numbers are as gloomy sounding as this, so if you only like upbeat dance music you might find on those Party Mix CD compilations, you might want to pass on this.

The next song is “The Voice and the Snake”. Actually all this is, is a sample from a prog rock album from Aphrodite’s Child called 666 (1972) (Aphrodite’s Child was the band Vangelis was in), in this case, “Seven Bowls”, but with the added-on spooky synthesizers from, I presume Cretu himself.

The final song is “Back to the Rivers of Belief”. It’s a three piece suite, once again, and it starts off with “Way to Eternity”. This movement begins with some knocking sounds, and the theme song to the Spielberg movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind played on a modern digital synthesizer (after all, it’s a calm piece, and trying to actually sample from the movie would not work, as it would be too loud). The second movement, “Hallelujah” starts off with the dance beat with voices whispering “turn off the light” and so on. The last movement is “The Rivers of Belief”. This is the only song Michael Cretu sang on (which unfortunately gave him bad ideas, as he started singing much more on subsequent Enigma albums, and I’m just not much for his singing). Luckily, it’s so in the background that I’m not bothered by his singing (unlike say, 1996’s Le Roi Est Mort, Vive le Roi!). Most of the rest of the vocals on the album consists of spoken dialog in English and French.

My only complaint I have of MCMXC is the beat lacks variety, but the wonderful, gloomy, otherworldly atmosphere totally makes up for its shortcomings. Sure I don’t expect everyone to like Enigma, but in my opinion, this is by far their best album, and if you fancy the idea of gloomy, otherworldly dance music, you might like this album.

12 Responses to Enigma: MCMXC A.D. (1990)

  • I have been an avid fan ever since MCMXC a.D. came out.I have tried to join the official fan club but sadly to say I speak english.
    I would love to know more about the band and to see if there are going to be any tours as I would love to see them live
    Your devoted fan

  • I have been really big into Enigma for over ten years now.Every cd that they have released I have loved every track on them all.There music has such a haunting feeling about it, but yet there is a deep sexuality to it also.It completely empowers you and draws you in when you listen to it.It is like an elixir. I really hope they start to release more music on a much more frequent basis, than they have been.I need to hear more from them.Keep going Enigma.

  • Enigma is a great music! Very unusual! I was surpised when I saw that so many people still listen to that kind of music.
    MCMXC.a.D…Great album, I would say one of the most successful albums. Great music, intrestinf style and idea.
    Voyageur- the last album that waa released in 2003, is also grest album and I think many people will agree that songs like Voyageur and Boum Boum are very unusual for Enigma’s style, but very beautiful!
    I hope Enigma will continue release more music and videos because we (Enigma’s fans) would love to hear, to read and to watch more.

  • I love Enigma.Not only because I am Southeastern europian but they are great and honestely I haven’t seen any of their show yet but Iwould love to see themsinging LIVE. It was very misterioz I was always who are they ..but I discovered and I still like to know and hear more about them
    All the best !

  • Come on,all you Enigma fans. Enigma is not a band, check out the web sites. It is basically one man, Michael Cretu, a genius in his own right in the way he creates his music. Above all, a person who has developed his art from piano to state of the art technology. A true musician. Why do you want to seem him live? Probably a total impossibility bearing in mind the computer wizardry behind him. A man who creates music from whatever source he chooses, be it samplers or his own keyboard skills. But what a great end product.

  • Dont have words to explain abt Enigma but i simply say Enigma is matchless………No match in this world ………..they r from the beyound of invisibles…………………

  • Enima is the greatest and the most consistant mood therepy groove on this planet! Ben Jones can drop dead as far as we’re concerned! I wonder what he has to say about Dido. Something negative would win him a special visit by All Demons, inc. It does not matter the themes or the tempos that were claimed to be borrowed by some whoever or whatever, Enigma is simply the best and the brightest that mood music has to offer. Enigma’s music provides hours of consistant mood stimulation that does’nt change every 3 minutes, or, so, into something else that spoils the aura of the enigimatic, soothing, relaxation; the love making;the not having to change the CD, or skip the song on that CD to another artist, when a continous Enigma collection ( Plus Dido) lasts forever in the background set on continous play mode. All negative comments will be forwarded to: enemies/idiot/fuckyou.com

  • words I could write a lot about enigma songs, about cretus, or his wife. to me enigma seems to be like feelings or a kind of energy that goes inside you and make you travell arround the universe, I love enigma,love the way M. Cretus see the music.
    my score is ******** 100 edson ritta

  • Sorry, but what is kimerikas?

    Jane.

  • Sorry, but what is kimerikas?

    Jane.

  • Sorry, but what is kimerikas?

    Jane.

  • I heard this album for the first time around 1994-95 and since then the songs of this album will forever remain etched in my memory. One of the songs (Mea Culpa) actually inspired me to learn French (I’m from Canada) – a skill that I’ve honed to quite an advanced level through the university courses that I subsequently took. This album truly is a masterpiece – the chants, the flutes, the drums, the lyrics all seem to just blend in.. might I add a little sprinkling of MaryJane makes it sound absolutely celestial! Cheers!

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