The Cross of Changes Review (Joar Grimstvedt)
by Joar Grimstvedt January 4 1994
Just over three years ago Enigma, alias for the German composer and producer Michael Cretu, released the album MCMXC a.D. and became known for using Gregorian chants along with more modern rhythms, making for a very interesting listen. The album became a big success, a success paved way for by the track Sadeness Part I. Enigma is now out with the second album.
The title is The CROSS Of Changes, and you notice that it is not Enigma which is the artist per se, but Enigma 2. This may have been done so that the listener don't automatically expect an album in the vein of MCMXC a.D. (gregorian et al), but an evolvement. The cover is VERY tasty, it's black with a circle and a humanoid or android walking in front. The lines of the drawing are dim. The printing of the CD is also tasty, black with a diagram or something on it.
The CROSS Of Changes has nine tracks...It clocks in at 44:16, and each track floats into the next one as on MCMXC a.D.
It opens up with the same phrase as the opening track of MCMXC a.D. The function of this is to make a connection, a bridge, from the previous album and into the new album, into new waters. After that one minute the music takes on a wholly new direction, setting a mood which at times is remiscent of the music of Twin Peaks at it's most dark and eerie. I could even swear that there are some backwards sounds going on. And then comes Sandra with the words that fit (which incidentally are the same as the first verse of Out From The Deep).
The Eyes Of Truth
Actually, this track may be the one that is most MCMXC a.D.-like. You'll find the rhythm, the chant (this time Arabian/Indian (India)), and the shakuhachi. As the piece evolves it get's more orchestrated, and in some parts it sounds like it could have been done by Vangelis.
Return To Innocence
This track cleverly blends the joik (lapp chant) with modern rhythms and song structure. The joik is used as the chorus. This track gives me a feeling of pleasure and happiness, and some of the reason is that Enigma has turned to the ancient Nordic musical culture, the lapps living in the northern parts of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia. A video has already been created for Return To Innocence, making it a good candidate for a single release.
I Love You ... I'll Kill You
Of all the tracks on the album, this is the one which is most complex, most subtle, most delicious, and which looks like becoming my all-time favourite. It is the longest (8:51), and it is the one which most clearly sets a mood. I can imagine this one played at an alternative or ambient rave (ie. opposite of the hardcore beatpumping rave), because it enthrals you and makes you relax. It starts out with some TR-808 drums, but grows and introduces the tabla, very clever. The song still has this really deep bass drum. After the verse comes the main phrase, which may well be the key phrase from the album: Loneliness, I feel loneliness, in my room. The mood is now very relaxing and comforting, the phrase repeats over and over again, and the rave is having it's climax. The music slowly settles down, the drums and percussion fading away while some ambience is generated (ie. outdoor sounds). A peculiar reed sound comes in with it's repeating phrase. But just as you have found peace and calmness, the music hits back at you, and it hits hard! A very powerful rhythm foundation is built, and although it's basically the same bar which is repeated, there are some chords in the background which you barely hear but which adds motion. The electric guitar then enters, first screaming but then developing into delicate lines and sophisticated runs. The music then gradually decays, leaving to the listener what he heard in the short middle part.
This is a very strong track, both in terms of the powerful arrangement of the music and when it comes to the lyrics contents. It's about the missionaries, and how they exploit the indians with their religion (Christianity), and kill their gods. It's got that Amazonian soundscape, very interesting. Powerful chorus. This is what the cross of changes is.
Dream Of The Dolphin
This is a short piano track. It conveys this saying from the Shaman, 'Man is the Dream of the Dolphin'. The liner notes say: Dedicated to my beloved wife Sandra.
Age Of Loneliness (Carly's Song)
Carly's Song was written for the motion picture Sliver, and it was released on single (only in some countries) plus featured on the soundtrack album, so many people know this. This track is a good indication of what to expect from the new album.
Out From The Deep
Although Enigma produces music which is a in style of its own, this track has got that 'pop' feeling to it. It's a bit surrealistic when it comes to lyrics content, and the opening guitar playing reminds you of a well-known Beatles song.
The CROSS Of Changes
It is short, it is the closing track, and it leaves you feeling good. It closes the album in more than one way.
The theme of this album is that of loneliness, and of a 'return to innocence', a return to yourself. Incidentally, this theme is also used to an extent in MCMXC a.D.'s The Rivers Of Belief.
If MCMXC a.D. remained a mystery (pun avoided) as far as information was concerned, the new album certainly does not. The lyrics to all the songs are included (only The Eyes Of Truth has not got any), and there's a full recording credit. The album was recorded and mixed at A.R.T. Studios in Ibiza, which is a holiday island in the Mediterranean Sea, just east of Spain. It was engineered and produced by "Curly" Michael Cretu. Note that he on this album steps forward with his full name, the previous album was as you know produced by 'Enigma', with the only reference to Cretu being on the song credits (ie. 'Curly MC'). The recording credits also say '<recorded> with the help of E-Magic and Euphonix'. Now E-Magic are the makers of the Atari and Mac software Creator and Notator, which means we at least know what software he used. It would be nice to know what hardware he used as well. I don't know what Euphonix is.
With all these credits mentioned, there remains only one credit, namely 'samples used'. Now this is an interesting column to include. Not only for identifying what the sources of the chants are, but also because one can actually seek out these records and listen to them for the extracts used on the Enigma album, to hear the phrases in their original context. Unfortunately, the text is printed against a green and black background, which makes it nearly impossible to read. However, I have been able to see the words 'aborigines de Taiwan', 'Mongolia' and 'Songs From The Victorious Days' (which is by Anne Dudley among others).
The booklet has ten pages. On the back cover of the CD (jewel case) you'll see that each track has a symbol associated with it, with the number inside it, track 1 being a circle with the number inside etc. The lyrics are printed in the spread of the booklet (the middle pages), the credits on page nine. All the other pages have these strange symbols or drawings, which associates you with the Medieval Ages.
To sum up, this is a really great album, and it has certainly been worth the wait. The CROSS Of Changes is a very interesting piece of music, and it shows that Enigma is more than just Gregorian chant plus driving rhythm. Last but not least, this is an album to be enjoyed and to be played LOUD!