”Good evening,” a sexy French-accented voice whispers at the opening of MCMXC a.D.. ”This is the voice of Enigma.” The voice then continues in a soothing tone, inviting you to relax, then, more breathily, to walk the line between pleasure and pain, all over an environmental soundscape of flutes, dolphins, sounds of the rain forest, Gregorian chants, and an electronically programmed house beat. This is a holy package with a seamy underbelly. Enigma, the brainchild of German deejay Michael Cretu, explores dance music’s mental as well as physical possibilities. The first single, ”Sadeness” (inspired by the Marquisde Sade, and pronounced ”sod-ness,”), is a quizzical look at sexual abandon (with the kinkiest parts spoken in French). With its background sounds that make you feel like you’re drifting in hyperspace, the track is defined by its rich, New Age-like orchestral sound and its solemn religious chanting, not by a specific melody or hook. Juxtaposing spiritual contemplation with s&m is certainly a novel approach, but adding sex to New Age sells. ”Sadeness” went to No. 1 in Germany and got American radio play and even crept into Billboard’s top 100 before it was released in the U.S. This spacey single doesn’t sound like anything else on the dial. The album may not have the most accessible club hits on it, but this journey through what the group calls ”music, spirit, and meditation” is entrancing as well as provocative. A-
Posted March 15 1991 — 12:00 AM EST
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