Release Date: 01.18.00
Record label: emd / virgin
by: bryan ochalla
I fell in love with a song unlike any I had ever heard on mainstream pop radio back in 1993. Like most of the free world, the song corrupted my mind for months with its blend of ethereal instrumentation, inspirational lyrics and the most infectious use of a Native American chant I had ever heard. That song was Enigma's "Return To Innocence."
After buying the accompanying album, The Cross of Changes, and listening to the rest of the new-age tinged songs, however, I scratched my head in ignorant incomprehension and put the album away to collect dust until earlier this year. After becoming addicted to the exotic vocals and some of the most beautiful production my ears had ever heard, I began to treasure the album, and the band, that I once had absentmindedly neglected.
With a new album that is being hailed as "the first must-get album of the millenium," Enigma is back with The Screen Behind the Mirror. Much to my delight, Screen instantly reminds of The Cross of Changes, with more modern instrumentation and a new female vocalist-from-the-gods in former Olive frontwoman, Ruth-Ann.
Like its 1993 predecessor, The Screen Behind the Mirror blends intelligent, inspirational lyrics atop brilliant electronic instrumentation, an amazing use of samples and even a smattering of the often-used speaking voices of Elisabeth Houghton and Sandra Cretu.
The first stand out track is the lead single, "Gravity of Love," a beautiful electronic ballad featuring the haunting vocals of Ruth-Ann at its forefront. Other single-worthy tracks include the electronic-rockesque "Modern Crusaders," with vocals by Andru Donalds and a driving electronic backdrop including choral chants not unlike those used in the recent Star Wars Episode 1 score.
Other selections on The Screen Behind the Mirror have the surreal and ethereal new agedness of previous Enigma productions. "Traces (Light and Weight) lacks vocals of any kind but still manages to captivate and calm with its water drop effects and synthesizer bell line. More Native American chants are utilized to full effect on the beautiful title track. And the Star Wars Episode 1 choral chants are used again in "Between Mind and Heart," a track sure to please fans of Moby's latest album.
If there are any downfalls to Enigma's latest offering, they are few and far between. The album does sound almost frighteningly similar to earlier efforts. While Michael Cretu's production has many modern sounds to it, it never sounds drastically different from what he was able to produce in 1993. Along with this, the album, while brilliant, is sure to find a disgustingly limited audience due to its avant-garde approach and lack of "radio-friendly" singles, especially in a day when teen boy bands and cute, no-talent girl singers smother the airwaves and minds of consumers. Finally, it is a shame that Olive frontwoman Ruth-Ann is used so sparingly, with leads on two songs and partial vocals on another.
Of course, these quibbles matter little. The Screen Behind the Mirror is an amazingly elegant album that should be heard at least once by every person who considers themselves a lover of music. Go buy it now.