Enigma – Sensing The Spheres
Enigma is a German new age musical project formed in 1990 by Michael Cretu, David Fairstein and Frank Peterson. The Romanian-born Cretu conceived the Enigma project while working in Germany, but based his recording studio A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza, Spain, from the early 1990s until May 2009, where he has recorded all of Enigma’s studio releases to date. Cretu is both the composer and the producer of the project. His former wife, pop singer Sandra, often provided vocals on Enigma tracks. Jens Gad co-arranged and played guitar on three of the Enigma albums. Peter Cornelius also contributed to Enigma during the 1990s.
From the late 1970s onward, Michael Cretu already had his own music career on his hands and apart from some collaboration efforts with several other musicians, he also produced his wife’s albums. Before Enigma, he released a number of albums under his own name, but none of them sold particularly well. Cretu revealed in an interview that he believed that his ideas were running out at that point.
In December 1990, after eight months of preparation, Cretu released Enigma’s debut album, MCMXC a.D., which received over 57 platinum awards worldwide, and topped the charts in 41 countries, directly becoming the most successful Virgin Records act during that time.The album was Cretu’s first commercial success through the single “Sadeness (Part I)”, which juxtaposed Gregorian chants and sexual overtones over a dance beat that was very peculiar to the ears of the public at that time. Cretu explained that the album was about unsolved crimes and philosophical themes such as life after death, hence the name Enigma. He had previously used a Gregorian-type chant on the opening seconds of Sandra’s 1987 single “Everlasting Love”, without integrating them into other parts of the song. “Sadeness” quickly rose to the top of the charts in Germany and France; it went on to become a worldwide hit. Later Cretu would claim that the now signature Enigma sound was inspired after falling asleep on the London Underground. The title of the album MCMXC a.D. is the Roman numeral for the year of its release, 1990.
Before the album was released, Cretu was cautious of the response towards the upcoming album, decided to forgo mentioning his and most of the personnel’s real names and credited himself as Curly M.C., while the album sleeve contained little information about the background of the project, furthering the mystery about the creators of the album and leading to speculation whether Enigma was a band, a person or a group.
In 1993, Cretu was given an offer by producers to compose the full soundtrack of the motion picture Sliver, but he was unable to accept the offer. Instead, he came up with “Carly’s Song” (“Age of Loneliness” in the album and video releases) and “Carly’s Loneliness”, which were used in the movie and credited in the motion picture soundtrack as well.
In the same year, The Cross of Changes was released. It received about the same response from the public (it sold 6 million copies in a year). However, both of the albums also attracted lawsuits over the issue of sampling from other music sources.
In 1996, Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi! (French for “The King is dead. Long live the King!”) was released. Cretu’s idea was that this third album was the child of the previous two albums, and therefore included familiar elements of Gregorian chants and Sanskrit chants in it. Though the album was as meticulously crafted by Cretu as the earlier two albums, it failed to achieve the same level of success that they enjoyed. As a result only two of the three singles originally slated were released, with the third one (“The Roundabout”) being silently canceled in 1998.
The 2000 release of The Screen Behind the Mirror included samples from Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana on four tracks on the album. This time the Gregorian chants were toned down tremendously, although Shakuhachi flutes and other traditional Enigma signatures remain. Only “Gravity of Love” and “Push the Limits” were released as singles from the album. Ruth-Ann Boyle (from the band Olive) and Andru Donalds mark their first appearances on the Enigma project.
In 2001, Cretu released a new single called “Turn Around” together with Love Sensuality Devotion: The Greatest Hits and Love Sensuality Devotion: The Remix Collection to end what he considers to be the first chapter of Enigma. A light show was held at the Munich Planetarium in conjunction of the release of the compilation albums.
2003’s Voyageur saw a change of direction for the project. Practically all of the prominent Enigma signature elements (the ethnic and Gregorian chants, the Shakuhachi flutes) were no longer employed. As a result many fans did not appreciate this new direction, and sales were affected. From a statistical point of view, every Enigma studio album to date has sold roughly half of what the previous release did.
To commemorate the fifteen years of Enigma, a special limited-edition album called Fifteen Years was launched, which was the size of an LP vinyl disk, with Leonardo da Vinci’s art in the cover, a big booklet with extra art, and featured eight compact discs: all the previous albums, the DVD Remember the Future, and a special and exclusive bonus CD, The Dusted Variations, which included the project’s greatest hits remade by another project. All of the songs are different from the originals and use minimal percussion. This disc also contained the single version of “Hello and Welcome”, which was later released as a single. On 28 August 2005, Enigma’s management Crocodile Music announced the release of “Hello and Welcome” as a single. Originally it was slated to be released in October; the release date was moved to 25 November 2005 and was released in Germany on 10 March 2006. Much like Voyageur, the song shows little similarity to earlier Enigma works. The song was the walk-in music of the German boxer Felix Sturm.
On 26 September 2006, Enigma’s sixth album A posteriori was released worldwide, containing a new version of “Hello and Welcome” and the new song “Goodbye, Milky Way”, which, despite earlier announcements, was not released as a single. The album is more techno- and pop-oriented electronic music than any previous one. The concept is based on such sciences as astronomy, physics, history, and sociology. A DVD version of A posteriori was released on 16 December 2006, which featured kaleidoscope images in synchronization with the multi-channel remastered music.
In late March 2007, a special private lounge remix album version of A posteriori was released on the iTunes Music Store. This compilation includes 12 new remixed tracks from the album by artists such as Boca Junior, Tocadisco, and more. Some of these tracks were available previously on the original A posteriori iTunes version of the album and on the previously mentioned DVD release.
On 19 September 2008, Enigma’s seventh album Seven Lives Many Faces was released worldwide. The lead single, “Seven Lives”, is a fusion of modern and classical elements.
The Platinum Collection, a 3-CD compilation, was released on 27 November 2009 in Germany, and on 9 February 2010 worldwide. The first CD contains Enigma hits. The second CD contains remixes. The third CD is a collection of “lost tracks”, musical experiments which never were finalized and released previously.
On 5 October 2010, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the first album MCMXC a.D., The “Enigma’s Social Song” project began.Enigma fans were asked to submit vocals for a new Enigma song. The public were then asked to vote, with the winning submission “Fei mea” being provided by Latvian singer Fox Lima for the chorus.
The top 3 runners up: Mark Joshua from Brazil, J. Spring from Spain and Rasa Serra from Lithuania provided other important parts of the vocals like the bridge, backing and verse of the final version of the single. Fans also influenced further stages of the song’s creation by voting on elements such as a lead instrument, general mood and style of the track.
The final mix of the single named “MMX The Social Song” was released on 15 December 2010.
It became the first song ever created for and by the fans via the internet.
In 2015, Cretu announced on Enigma’s facebook page that he had begun recording on Enigma’s eight studio album. It is expected to be released in 2016 as the official website have started the initial pre release promotions online.
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