The Cross of Changes
Enigma is a completely new collage of sounds, rhythm and feeling for time: it is musical work with hardly anything in common with standard songs and their formats. Michael Cretu, who loved Bruckner’s late Romanticism and who wanted to be a concert pianist, created a mile- stone of music history. Michael openly remarks: “I started writing hits the day I sold my piano”. Yet in 1991 he said “It is my plan for Enigma to be an outlet for music that boldly strays away from the norm of pop music,” he says. “I have several ideas for the next album that I think are fascinating”. Despite all expectations, Michael took exactly 3 years to produce The Cross Of Changes. Long before the last track was recorded, the retail pre-orders amounted to more than 1.4 million units. Michael wasn’t going to be pressured: “Music is part of my soul – and this ultimately decides everything”.
Before the second album was released, Cretu had been given an offer by Robert Evans, a film producer, to compose the full soundtrack of the motion picture Sliver featuring Sharon Stone, but he had been unable to accept the offer. Instead, he came up with “Carly’s Song” (called “Age of Loneliness” on the album and in 1994 video single release) and “Carly’s Loneliness” songs, which were used in the movie and credited in the motion picture soundtrack as well. A “Carly’s song”was released as a CD single in United States in the summer of 1993 and promoted directly the film and the soundtrack. It is rumoured that Sharon Stone received a portion of the soundtrack profit, so she agreed to appear in the music video for this song. This song was later slightly re-arranged and re-released as “Age of Loneliness” that appears on the “Cross of Changes” album.
“I’m an absolute nightowl”, says the 36 year old studied musician about the production phase which took seven months. A summer, where he hardly saw the sun, where he just bathed once in one of the both pools at his concealed situated property with an old farmhouse, and where the brand-new mountain bike got dusty in the garage. Even Cretu’s offshore racing boat didn’t leave the Ibizian harbour – a hobby he has in common with another German island inhabitant, namely his producer colleague Frank Farian. Instead, the workaholic was sitting up to 16 hours in front of his three terminals. The computer log of Cretu’s sound bridge tells us that recording sessions from 22.00 o’clock up to 11.00 o’clock in the morning were no rare thing. For The Cross Of Changes he listened to hundreds of CDs with chants of different primitive races, sampled, synchronized and catalogued the sounds, before the actual song writing process could start. Due to the unreliable power supply and his unusual working rhythm, the enormous studio complex is supplied by an own generator. If it breaks down, there’s automatically another one connected. And if this breaks down too, the sound tinkerer has another half an hour to save the fruits of his labour. The music piece being released for Sliver motion picture was just a starter, the main course is just about to come now.
On 1st December 1993 the lead single from the “Cross of Changes” titled “Return to Innocence” charted for the first time on Tokyo’s radio pop chart. Within the next days and weeks, the song spread with the speed of sound among all European radio stations and definitely it was not the beginning of the end ….
That’s not the beginning of the end
That’s the return to yourself
The return to innocence
“Return to Innocence” describes the circle of life and includes an aboriginal Taiwanese chant that is usually recited to celebrate birth and to mourn death. For this song, Cretu engaged the 26 year old singer Andreas Harde from Munich, who had just presented his debut album Welcome To The Soul Asylum (1993) under his stage-name Angel. Here, Cretu was also sitting on the producer chair. On ”The Return of Innocence,” Enigma’s mastermind Michael Cretu replaces his familiar monkish chants from the first album with aboriginal croons, but the entrancing, mid-tempo groove remains, along with loopy female whispers. “Return To Innocence” was used to promote several types of media in the mid-1990s, including film and TV commercials. In fall 1994, the song was featured in an episode of the TV show 1996 Summer Olympics. It became one of the project’s most popular international singles, reaching number one in over 10 countries (including Greece, Norway, Sweden and Ireland). Michael says “the overall theme is maybe the return to innocence because what I would try to symbolise is I think that every human being in when they first see daylight is innocent in the way that it has no bad attitudes, (…) that’s why I say look into your heart or it’s the return to yourself, I mean the return to the way you came to Earth”. In the same year, The Cross of Changes was released (its premiere took place on 6th December 1993) and it received about the same response from the public (it sold 6 million copies in a year) as the lead single did.
With the impressive Billboard 200 chart debut of Enigma’s second album “The Cross of Changes” at no. 12 in the first week, the Virgin’s campaign was off to quite a start at that time but while club DJs had spearheaded the push last time, serving up the multi-format no.1 smash “Sadeness” on dancefloors months ahead of radio, they were then lagging sadly behind – it was curious, given the potent, groovability of the Enigma’s newly released single “Return to Innocence” , with its flesh, hip-hop derived base and kicky chorus. “The overall feel of this song is a lot more ethereal and airy (than “Sadeness”), which was making it harder to some DJs to program” says Rick Squillante, national director of dance music at Virgin US. “As the general public gets into this record, I think it will kick in with DJs”. A few months after its debut, a single became one of the project’s most popular international singles, reaching number one in over 10 countries, number three on the UK Singles Chart, the Top 5 in Austria, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, Netherlands, Switzerland and South Africa. It reached the Top 20 in Italy and France. It was also the project’s biggest hit in America, reaching number two on the US Modern Rock Tracks chart, number four on the US Hot 100, and number six on the U.S Top 40 Mainstream, a song/single has been sold in the excess of 4 million copies worldwide. In Keyboard Cretu summed up perhaps a major reason for Enigma’s success: “Enigma is a vehicle for doing things outside the rules that you normally have to follow when you make a dance record.” He went on to say, “Basically, I will keep on doing Enigma records until I run out of new ideas. Then I’ll move on to something else.”
“The Cross of Changes” is a continuous 40-minute-plus sonic journey through the mind which swirls around the listener to create the ambiance of an eerie contemplative pilgrimage musical. A more rock-infused sound is present on “The Cross of Changes” and the Gregorian chants from the previous album were replaced with ethnic-style world chants. In a time when singles were so important Cretu created a whole album that can be played without skipping to the few popular singles. He takes the individual tracks and weaves them into a beautiful, whole piece of musical art. Cretu’s uncanny ability to mix sound bites, powerful instrumentation, compelling lyrics, and pulsing beats provides an environment for the listener to retreat into. “For me, the title means a crossing, or a point in life where you have to make some decision,” Mr. Cretu said. “Many of the elements on the album are inspired by numerology.”
Where the most striking juxtapositions on “MCMXC a.D.” mixed Gregorian chant with breathy sensual exhortations and house music beats, on “The Cross of Changes” psychedelic studio rock is paired with world music sounds. “The new album combines as much as possible rock elements from the late 60’s and early 70’s with ethnic voices,” Mr. Cretu explained. “I like big smooth sounds with lots of reverb, my albums are not collections of songs but collages of thousands of bits and pieces. Putting the music together is like working on a big puzzle. But while the philosophy behind both albums is the same, their musical elements and arrangements are completely different”. The Cross Of Changes is the most fascinating, impressive, original and both musical and technical advanced album to visit the charts in the 90s combining sounds and voices in such fresh and utterly unexpected ways. The great moods glide beautifully into each other: cathedral-pomposity, ultra-harmony, life, death & passion; filled with creative expressions, best of all the bombastic choir arrangements and the exotic female vocals from distant countries, song traditions and culture – all of these are combined with drum beats to create a richly layered sound. You could describe Enigma’s album as a techno-psychedelic recording – and it’s certainly a fine example of the chill-out genre, “If I listen today to my first album it’s seems so light and so easy compared to the new one. I mean the new one is so much more dramatic, it’s a little bit darker”
We came out from the deep
To help and understand but not to kill
It takes many lives till we succeed
To clear the debts of many, many hundred years
On 8th April 1994, “The Eyes of Truth” a second of four European singles promoting the album was released. Similar with “Age of Loneliness”, the song featured samples of Mongolian Folk Music and the video for this song was recorded in the rural areas of Nepal. In 1999, the song was popularized from its artistic use in the worldwide trailer for the movies The Matrix, and also for The Long Kiss Goodnight. As is the trend for many trailers, the song did not appear in either film or soundtrack. The first two singles are not the only one outstanding tracks on the album as many Enigma fans consider the other two songs as more valuable from artistic point of view and they say these two represent the album’s real highlights: atmospheric, organic and sensual “I Love You I’ll Kill You” with the brilliant guitar solo performed by Cretu’s friend, Austrian singer and composer Peter Cornelius and “Silent Warrior” in which the music slowly builds to a crescendo, and after five minutes, the vocalist is bursting with rage as he begins to scream the lyrics. The song tells of the European colonization and domination of pre-capitalistic countries through the guise of religion. Cretu clearly took position against the murderous insanity of colonisation and the combined genocide of the American Indians; Cretu’s voice stirringly intones “(…) White man won in the name of God, with the cross as an alibi … But for the ones who abuse his name, There’ll be no escape, On judgment day”. The album also contains a short flowing ballad dedicated to Michael’s wife, Sandra “The Dream Of The Dolphin”- a romantic song telling us about the old Shaman saying that the dolphins have slept away the conquest of the land and envy man for it. This is how scientists explain why dolphins attack creatures of the sea but no humans; “(…) I think this music reflects a lot of my inner wishes and thoughts, and reflects my inner life”.
Enigma 2 may be complex and require more brainpower than your average disco or house bauble, but its array of heady melodies, chants, and whispers rest atop primal rhythms that are ultimately universal. Michael Cretu closes the nine-track album with the brooding outro, a final title track “The Cross of Changes” in which the warm voice of Louisa Stanley speaks the words slowly “If you understand or if you don’t, If you believe or if you doubt ; There’s a universal justice …and the eyes of truth, are always watching you”
FACTS TO REMEMBER:
Marcin Papke, Adrian Rode, Billboard materials,
Enigma-Archives, Joar Grimstvedt, EnigmaMusic.com,
Discogs, Virgin/EMI press releases, Wikipedia,
public internet materials.