With “Voyageur”, 13 years after the phenomenal debut “MCMXC a.D.”, Michael Cretu presents the fifth album of his ENIGMA project. After the release of the greatest hits album “LSD” (2000), which had, naturally, been another multi-million seller, there were speculations about the end of ENIGMA. And the enigma is solved now. The title is motto: the musical voyage will go on with “Voyageur”.
O u t l o o k
The sound designer Michael Cretu surprises us: 11 songs and none of the classic ENIGMA ingredients as monks’ choirs, Ethno sounds or flutes. Cretu intentionally passed on these elements this time: “If I hate anything, it’s copying myself”. And so “Voyageur” – with 47:20 minutes playingtime the longest of the ENIGMA albums so far – offers a collection of sounds, rythms and virtual instruments inspiring the listener such: they’re new! Cretu states soberly:” For me, songs like the first five on “Voyageur” are not to be compared with anything on this planet musically. I’ve never heard anything like it.” And truly, the compositions, the arrangements and instrumentations are different but not strange. Full of contrasts as never before, ENIGMA takes the “Voyageur” on a trip. “Musically, this record is the most exciting one,” Cretu says, “no song is like the other.” Loud and quiet, slow and fast, classical and experimental, simple and complicated – and all harmonical, hypnotically blending into one another. Yet, words and music have become more “down to earth”. Everyday life, human relations are the topics this time instead of philosophical statements in regard to religion or sexuality as on the previous albums. “But the order of the titles, their names and what they’re like, all this runs into a conclusive entity.” “Voyageur” is a Pop song oriented album. Off the mainstream, landmark for a new aera. “Sophisticated Pop,” Cretu describes the style appropriately. “ENIGMA is an experimental project on a Pop music basis. A confession, too, of my understanding of popular and commercial music.” It’s not surprising then, that there are a number of potential hits on “Voyageur” again: next to the first single “Voyageur”, the intriguing midtempo track “Boum-Boum” and the dreamy ballad “Following The Sun” have a lingering after effect.
“No words can explain music, music always explains itself,” says Michael Cretu, born in Bukarest 46 years ago. As a little boy, Cretu had already been accepted to the “Highly Gifted Advancement for Musical Talents” as a pianist. In 1978 he finished his musical studies at the Frankfurt music school Cum Laude. Intentional was his step from classical music to Pop. As a musician, instrumentalist, soloist, composer, arranger he became one of the “most successful German music producers” (Focus Magazine). Whether he produced his wife Sandra, German Pop act number 1 of the 80ies (no. 1 charts positions in 30 countries)or next to countless others, international Pop artists like Mike Oldfield or Andru Donalds – the numerous international awards and the sales of more than 100 million records say enough. His work ethics: to not pay attention to the laws of the market and trends, Cretu has definitely proved to be right when he revolutionized the world of sound with his project ENIGMA.
L o o k i n g B a c k
ENIGMA – October 1990, a birth of the superlatives. Already the next single, “Sadeness Part I” became a bestseller busting limits and uniting generations. The single climbed the top charts positions of 24 countries. The debut album “MCMXC a.D.” has sold more than 14 million copies up to now. It stayed in the US Billboard charts for 282 weeks. Like a musical Noah’s Boat, Cretu unites the most different cultures of all continents from the most various epochs on his soundship ENIGMA. The American BillBoard Magazine celebrates ENIGMA as “the music for the new millenium”, The New York Times state: “the most refined studio Pop music of ENIGMA is an international phenomenon.” “The Cross of Changes” (1993), “Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi!” (1996), “The Screen Bejhind The Mirror” (2000) and the best of album “Love. Sensuality. Devotion. The Greatest Hits.” (2002) are all sweeping the charts, ensuring that ENIGMA sells 30 million CDs worldwide, has 50 no. 1 charts positions and receives 90 platinum awards proving it has become the commercially most important German music project of all times.
L o o k i n g A h e a d
Whether copied, quoted or adapted – ENIGMA has been a platform for others from the beginning. Similar sounds and rythms are to be found everywhere: from DJ projects to commercials and film music, to experimental sound performances. “Even though it’s quite enervating to be stolen from, it is some kind of compliment”, says Cretu about his engimatic sound inspiration. Each album individually is an evolution, a statement for the zeitgeist. And if you were number one in every country that has something like a charts system, it’s “naturally a wonderful feeling giving one a great inner satisfaction”. After 30 million sold albums, he still doesn’t feel the pressure of commercial success. He has to like it first and above all. And who is he? Composer, arranger, sound engineer, sound designer, instrumentalist, pianist, singer… Lots of “discipline” is needed to keep the differing characters of this multiple personality in line and make them agree on a concept. So the playfulness, the freshness, the naïvety and childlikeness make up the special charm of “Voyageur”. Unfortunately, there still won’t be a live performance of Michael Cretu and ENIGMA: “I’m not a psychological exhibitionist, for that’s what you have to be as a frontman. I prefer to know that after the Beatles, mine is the best sold backcatalogue. It’s a great honor for my music. If 80,000 would cheer at me, it would only tell me that I’m fashionable at the moment. These parameters are not part of my life.”
Enigma has always stood out as being genuinely original amongst the large slew of electronic music artists. Since the introduction of the debut album, “MXMXC A.D.”, in 1990, Enigma has been known and praised highly for its calm and sensual mix of electronic music and choir chants. However, Cretu has decided to take a different direction for the album. As he has stated in interviews, he has not used any samples on this record. Gone are the Gregorian chants, and in is a slightly more electronic- and even, God-forbid, pop-oriented tone to his music. There are many reviews of “Voyageur”, and it seems that not everyone is happy about his decision to travel this way. Yet Cretu has decided to follow his instinct on this one (perhaps this is why the album is called “Voyageur”). And the result is still as inspiring and breath-taking as his previous works. Voyageur is certainly a fun and funky trip for the brain. No, it’s not perfect, but it does try and deliver a little something for everyone. It’s certainly a departure from the usual Enigma formula, but you can only stay with one sound for so long before it goes stale like a bread loaf.
Michael Cretu on Voyageur's songs
1. From East To West
Michael Cretu: The journey begins. For the first time, an ENIGMA album starts with a real song. It’s full of contrasts: from very soft to… When I played the intro on the piano – it was shortly before sunrise – I wanted to call it “Sunrise”. Then I thought, “From East To West” is even better. It does have a reason why I didn’t call it “Green Banana”.
Michael Cretu: For me, this track meets all attributes an ENIGMA single of the year 2003 needs. It’s extraordinary, it has got nothing to do with what’s on the radio otherwise. It’s catchy and it’s nice, charming, uncomplicated. I wanted to create a monotonous harmony resp. a harmonious monotony. I liked Kraftwerk’s “Fahrn, fahrn, fahrn, auf der Autobahn”. They’re virtuosos in dealing with monotony. The whispered lyrics “Vien, vien chez moi voyageur” has a similar effect. I don’t know any track comparable to “Voyageur”.
Michael Cretu: This song – originally considered the title track – is an image and a statement for change. A symbol of where ENIGMA came from and where ENIGMA has arrived. It’s an absolutely shocking track: the middle section, where I use 12-tone elements, is almost musical Dadaism. It all happened very playfully, it’s nothing brainy.
4. Page Of Cups
Michael Cretu: Often there are songs which for the development of the entire album are much more important than singles. This is one. The 7 minute track had not been planned to be the longest one. But it’s flowing, it fits. My music is organic, it’s an essential part of it. I’m happy about the magic of this track, even though I don’t know where it comes from. The title means… well, let everybody think about it a bit.
Michael Cretu: The first duet for ENIGMA, but none meeting the usual clichés: first he sings, then she does the next line. Probably because it hadn’t been intended to be a duet at first. My original idea was a mix of Pop á la Ace of Base with a classical chanson. The song has all the attributes of a hit, we’ll see if it’s going to be a single.
6. Total Eclipse Of The Moon
Michael Cretu: Women over 30 would want to murder me if I left it off. It’s a touching ballad. You see a chamber orchestra in your mind but it’s all synthetically created. What can I say: it sounds better than if a chamber orchestra played alone. My style of playing creates naturalness again. The story is over after 2:16 minutes. It’s intentionally that short. It’s a traditional song – completely without drums. A breathing break in the middle of the album.
7. Look Of Today
Michael Cretu: Now the alternating bath of emotions. This modern, commercial club track is best here because it most acutely contrasts here. The song fits very well in the journey. Content-wise, the title is a critical look at the consumer society.
8. In The Shadow, In The Light
Michael Cretu: The song consists of two loops I liked, put together. Plus the mix of old sounds with very modern elements. And the middle part, the break with a fat Hammond organ kind of Uriah Heep like. I sang the lyrics later improvising a demo version, realizing that it was good the way it was.
Michael Cretu: A collage – an impression. Created from an accident. I tried a new synthesizer and I liked what I did. I played it in the morning at 11:00h after a long night, saved it on a minidisk, where I keep recording the various stages of development of songs. When I rediscovered it later, I thought it was beautiful. It fits well into the overall context and is good for the album at this position.
10. The Piano
Michael Cretu: The track is intentionally sweet and sugary but not sticky. Some say it sounds like the “Spirit Of Ibiza”. I was surprised because I keep thinking of a musical clock. For me, it has nothing to do with chill-out. Characteristic for the song, typical for ENIGMA, is the style of my playing the piano. My true profession is the pianist. And my touch, my style has remained the same over the years.
11. Following The Sun
Michael Cretu: Imagine: the orange gold light of the sun in October. On the ocean, shortly before sundown. Blinded, seeing nothing, only light. A feeling, a moment as if you’d take off. “Following the sun – the golden one”. I’m usually not that cheap but here it’s with a substance. Ruth-Ann sings it wonderfully. And in the end, the “Voyageur” vanishes into the orbit – floats away toward the unknown. The journey is over. So far.
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