Beyond the Invisible (Joar Grimstvedt)
by Joar Grimstvedt October 12 1996
The first sign of the third Enigma album arrives, in the form of the single Beyond The Invisible. Released a month prior to the album, it may give an indication of what Enigma in it's third incarnation will bring. Unusual for an Enigma single, this release brings the expected title track but also two additional songs, while not featuring any remixes at all, simply radio edits. Details as follows:
What immediately draws your attention once you hold this single is the visual profile. By now, the covers of the previous Enigma singles and albums are a familiar collection, with most of them sporting a black background and a simple illustration centred on it. The new single thoroughly breaks this tradition by having a cover light in colour. A drawing of a man, showing the back of his head down to his shoulders, has a circular object of some mechanical use put on top of it. Filling the background is a letter, and turning the case reveals more postal paraphernalia - a couple of old postcards of the Tour Eiffel in Paris, complete with a Republique Francaise stamp. The CD itself also follows up, with a close-up of the writing side of an old post card with address and text shown. It all sets the time mood to the first two decades of this century. Will the album follow up on this visual theme? As this is the third album, the artist name is Enigma 3, with the digit written raised after Enigma, in the same way as the title of the movie Alien 3.
On to the music, and the main song which is Beyond The Invisible. As the first notes strike you get an image of an oriental setting, and a tender flute plays along with gentle drums and the sound of the guiro. Then a very familiar voice comes in, that of Sandra. Not only is this brought over from the previous album, the opening words makes you think for a moment you're listening to I Love You ... I'll Kill You, as it starts with "I look into the mirror"...! The musical mood is also in a similar vein here as in that song. As with the other appearances of Sandra in Enigma songs, it is a very sensual contribution. Then a male voice takes over, and it's that of Michael Cretu himself. Underneath is a short repeating vocal theme (from the Riga choir). After this the final vocal element is introduced, that of a single male Gregorian chanter, in a somewhat deep voice. Cretu's chorus part is repeated a couple of times until the ending, and the repeating Latvian singing really sticks to your mind - it's a very nice theme.
This song is different from the previous Enigma pieces as it doesn't really have a beat. While Return To Innocence has a very hard drum sound, and much of MCMXC a.D.'s magic lies in the Balearic beat (as witnessed in Sadeness), Beyond The Invisible has a rhythm presence which is barely noticeable in comparison. The hand-held drums and the guiro plays on through the song, although towards the end you sense that a faint bass drum is now also contributing. In this song, the trademark Enigma sound, the drip (which you can hear in The Voice Of Enigma just as it goes into Sadeness), is once again present.
Lyrically, Beyond The Invisible has a theme which is similar to that of Mea Culpa', and partly I Love You ... I'll Kill You. Consider "I need space for my desires / Have to dive into my fantasies / I know as soon as I'll arrive / Everything is possible... / Cause no one has to hide / Beyond the invisible " (by Sandra); and "It is time to break the chains of life / If you follow you will see / What's beyond reality" (by Michael Cretu). The lyrics are written by Cretu and David Fairstein, the lyrics collaborator on all Enigma albums so far.
The first track on the single is the Radio Edit of the title song. After this follows Almost Full Moon, Beyond The Invisible (titled Album Version) and Light Of Your Smile. These all transcend into each other, giving away a clue about the aspect of the album - the tracks on it may be connected by natural transitions, in much the same way as was the case with MCMXC a.D. and The CROSS Of Changes. The two other songs on this single are both instrumental pieces, in the sense that they do not contain lyrics. They do however feature sampled voices, used as musical instruments.
Almost Full Moon starts off with some brightly sounding chords and a very relaxed and slow rhythm. The main characteristic element from the beginning, is the haunting chant, which has an undetermined quality to it - you can only almost place it geographically. It may sound Tibetan, or Australian aborigine, or Western, or it may simply not be a human voice at all, it shifts around in sound timbre and you can't really tell. Further along, a double-bass-like instrument joins in to add to the music, and the voice is replaced by an improvised melody line. At this point, the song has a lot in common with Callas Went Away, exchange the drums and you've almost got a very pleasant sounding twin. The song doesn't have a firm melody, but the chords and mood are very attractive.
Following Almost Full Moon is Beyond The Invisible. With the transition that leads into the song, the title track is improved compared to the stand-alone Radio Edit. There are only minor changes from the other version, but a noticeable difference is that the flute plays it's theme once through before Sandra's voice comes in.
The final song on this single, Light Of Your Smile, emerges as Beyond The Invisible ends, and it opens with an irate instrument, almost like the musical equivalent of a bee buzzing. From this the tension builds up with a rhythm and the guiro, and once again MCMXC a.D. springs to mind, although the kind of drums used are more like those on the second album. This is an up-tempo piece, with virtually no melody lines present, only the driving force of the rhythm and chord changes, with the musical voice present at times. The song fades out at the end, suggesting that on the album it really transitions into the next, unknown song.
A Short Radio Edit of Beyond The Invisible is the last track. It contains one less run-through of the chorus, but otherwise identical to the normal Radio Edit.
The fact that there are no remixes at all on this single may surprise and perhaps disappoint some. This must be a conscious choice, as the single actually contains the following line: "On this record there are no remixes that violate the original song". It's printed in red lettering, contrasting the other text which is all printed in black. Is this a statement Michael Cretu is making towards most singles containing countless "dance" remixes of the title track, often having little at all in common with the original song? Personally I'd like to see other versions of songs from the new album, as they in Enigma's case have been almost new and free-standing songs in their own. This is especially true of the remixes from MCMXC a.D., which had the unique quality of sharing many elements of each other and of the album. A remix of a given song could start out with drums, chords and melody from three different album songs, thus in effect creating an extension to the album. In many ways I view the four singles from MCMXC a.D. as an integral part of the album experience, and I would say that they are to be considered as "MCMXC a.D. Remixed".
If Cretu could create something similar with the material from the new album, then there would be nothing to loose by making remixes for the singles. But as MCMXC a.D. was such a coherent album, maybe it will be too hard a task to follow on this suite of singles. Another point when it comes to Enigma remixes, is that they've always been done by Cretu, or Enigma, himself. The noticeable exception here is Jam & Spoon for Carly's Song, and D.F.F. for Principles Of Lust. Third parties that do remixes of a song may be part of what the above remix statement is directed at, but how about getting someone like Way Out West do a remix for Enigma?
Whatever the case is, the lack of remixes on this single gives the opportunity to present three full tracks from the album. As is usually the case with a first single, it sets the expectations for the album to come. Beyond The Invisible may not be the instant show-stopper as Sadeness and Return To Innocence was, but this new song floats in on you and proves it's beauty. Judging by this single, the new album will present atmospheric music, containing musical qualities from the two previous Enigma albums. Still, if MCMXC a.D. was Gregorian chants to modern beats and sensual music, and The CROSS Of Changes gave an ethnic flavour, Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! will stake out a new direction, to where only remains to discover fully.
- Look at the other Beyond the Invisible review