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Enigma – [Album]

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Wednesday, 08 October 2008

It has never been easy for me to get into gothic culture. While the fashion sense has always been easy for me (I look good in black and don’t have to hide from the sun to boast a sort of eerie pallor) the music has, with only a few exceptions, always gone out of its’ way to make sure that the musicians performing it say just the right things in absolutely the right, shadow-clad way. More than most genres, “goth” wants to cater to and cultivate (after all, you can’t spell ‘cultivate’ without ‘cult’) a particular, very expensive lifestyle with clichés that delineate a “culture of cool” by an exclusive standard.

Take, for example, Enigma. Since 1990, the band has catered to a shadowy demographic, but they’ve also functioned as a sort of easy listening and urbane lifestyle music for the genre; almost like the elevator music you’d hear on your way to purgatory. There has never been any sort of reckoning or statement of intent made in the band’s music – rather, listening to it is more like the aural equivalent to standing in a museum and observing a new display of statues. If you’ve ever done that, you know how chilly it can feel.

Enigma’s new album, Seven Lives Many Faces, continues in that chilly tradition of statuesque musical presentation, except that this time a few extra players have joined principle tunesmith Michael Cretu and offered some Tricky-esque existential muttering to go along with all the synthetic backdrops and CG voices.

It’s difficult to review Seven Lives Many Faces using typical music journalism jargon because it simply won’t sound right or will inaccurately represent the sounds of the record. For example, if one were to say that “from the opening build of “Encounters” Enigma lays out a series of sprawling aural landscapes…,” while all of the words seem to fit and/or characterize the workings of the record, as it opens “Encounters” is too muted and seething to sprawl – it’s actually coiled very, very tightly – and the song provides more questions and inquisitive natures than it does provide a layout, so that doesn’t work either. The truth is that Seven Lives Many Faces seems to revel in a negative space with anti-movements; songs appear as two-dimensional platforms, play out and are gone without any bleed over.

– This is the nature of how Enigma chooses to express itself (or not – who can tell?) on Seven Lives Many Faces

As the album continues (‘progresses’ isn’t the right term either) songs including “Seven Lives,” “The Same Paper” and “Distorted Love” (all featuring vocals by Andru Donalds) seethe in an emotionally detached abyss while a galaxy of computer generated effects his around him but leave no lasting impression in spite that, if you ask, any one that’s heard it will seem to vaguely remember being fascinated by it at all the time. Perhaps it could be said that Seven Lives Many Faces as literally a record of the moment; after listening, it’s difficult to remember what you heard and the only impression one knows for sure is that he or she listened. It could be said then, that Seven Lives Many Faces is the auditory equivalent to Christo and Jeanne Claude’s Running Fence – an installation art piece that, once removed, is simply gone.

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