Formed 1990 in Ibiza, Spain. Group Members: Michael Cretu.
Styles: Club/Dance, Ethnic Fusion, New Age.
With their 1991 hit, "Sadeness," Enigma brought the new age fascination with Gregorian chants and old-world culture to the clubs; the resulting single was both unique and irresistible. The rest of the album followed that pattern successfully, although without quite matching the stunning success of the hit single. On their second album, 1994's Cross of Changes, some of the old-world elements remained, but the new age angle came to the forefront in a set of slick, radio-friendly dance-pop. Enigma 3: Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi followed in 1996. A side project, Trance Atlantic Airwaves, issued The Energy of Sound in 1998. The fourth Enigma record, The Screen Behind the Mirror, followed in early 2000.
- Stephen Thomas Erlewine (All Music Guide)
Enigma, was the brainchild of Frank Peterson and Michael Cretu. The revolutionary idea was to mix monastic or Gregorian chants with dance beats and rhythms. And from this idea came the unique single Sadeness, which announced Enigma to the world. The song was plagued by controversy, receiving criticism especially from Churches who disapproved of religious Gregorian chants with modern music and sexual references (the title itself is a wordplay on sadness, the 'sade' referring to the Marquis de Sade where the word sadistic comes from). Because Cretu and Peterson used pseudonyms, much speculation was made as to exactly who was behind the project. The only reason we know today, is because a court-case was levelled against the group by a German choir for using the monk chants without permission. The case was dismissed though as the chants were considered to be in the public domain, but through that we were made aware of Cretu and Peterson being behind the project.
However, this did not heed the success and popularity of Enigma. The resulting debut album MCMXC a.D. (which is Roman numerals for the year 1990, in the Year of our Lord) swept the world and literally created a new genre in music, popularly known as Enigmatic music. A number of groups adopted the style of Enigma with mixing chants and modern music, most notably Deep Forest, Sacred Spirit and b-tribe.
Enigma's primary female singer is Sandra, and the woman who intones all the sayings on the first three albums is British-born Louisa Stanley. However, what makes Enigma different from the mainstream is in the novel use of samples and chants, both ethnic and religious opposite a remarkable use of technological instruments.
The trademark 'instrument' of Enigma is a digitally-slowed sample of the shakuhachi, a Japanese flute. This instrument weaves its way throughout the album and is popular amongst many Enigmatic bands.
Shortly after the release of this surprisingly successful first album in 1990, Michael Cretu and Frank Peterson decided to go their separate ways. Frank returned to Hamburg, Germany and produced the album by Gregorian which was released in 1991. Michael Cretu remained in Ibiza, Spain to continue work there in his sophisticated home-studio called A.R.T.
Cretu continued composing and producing Enigma on his own (with some assistance lyrics-wise from Daivd Fairstein), releasing Enigma 2: the CROSS of Changes and Enigma 3: Le Roi est mort, VIVE le Roi! (which is French for "The King is Dead, long live the King!"). The two albums did exceptionally well around the world (especially the second which spawned the hit-single Return to Innocence), but neither ever achieved the success of the first, breathtaking album.
The first trilogy was thus finished and Michael Cretu signed a contract to produce five more albums under the Enigma label, in three year intervals (which has been characteristic of Enigma). Released on 17 January 2000, The Screen Behind the Mirror, signified a new beginning - an album which took a slightly different approach but using inherently familiar Enigma elements. The first single Gravity of Love (which, like the album, is centred around a sample from the Carl Orff song O Fortuna) has already been released. A slightly new line-up on vocals for the album includes the Cretu-project Andru Donalds, and on two songs the voice of Ruth-Ann (from the group Olive) features. Lousia Stanley, is also unfortunately no longer involved in the project, being replaced by Elisabeth Houghton.