Enigma: A Posteriori

I don’t take Enigma half as seriously as Michael Cretu does. If anything, his attempts at high mindedness usually end up being unintentionally humorous. I mean, what could be more obvious than sampling Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana on his previous album, The Screen Behind the Mask?

But at least he tries, and even if sampling Gregorian chant seems gimmicky, it still takes guts to do it.

At first, I listened to A Posteriori just to see if Cretu was still reaching beyond his means. In true music fan OCD fashion, I alphabetized my playlist and put Enigma right next to Eluvium’s copia. As a result, A Posteriori would start as copia would end. All that to say, I listened to A Posteriori more times than I planned.

And I have to say, it may actually be the first really decent Enigma album, if not ever then at least since MCMXC a.D.

Here’s what makes A Posteriori different: Cretu isn’t ambitious.

He’s not sampling exotic indigenous music or quoting obvious classical targets. If he does sample something, it’s so heavily processed to be rendered somewhat unrecognizable. And thankfully, he keeps his own singing to a bare minimum.

Cretu still has to please the fans, so there are the inappropriately breathy spoken word (with some French) on "Dancing with Mephistos". An opera vocal on "Dreaming of Andromeda" goes through enough effects to become an different instrument. And throughout the album, menancing bass lines and tons of delay thread the fabric of the music.

A Posteriori still sounds very much like an Enigma album, but without the baggage of the extra-musical material — those gimmicks which have informed most of Enigma’s repertoire — it feels oddly direct. Refreshingly so, in fact.

Here is what Enigma would sound like if it were just Cretu, and it isn’t half bad. Hell, if he made this album a lot earlier in his career, I wouldn’t be perceiving Enigma as all artifice, little substance.

For fans who expect the exotic sampling from Engima, this album will be a let down. But that sampling often got too distracting, and A Posteriori, for once, feels personal.

What would have made this album even better if he just kept his mouth shut. Alas, his harried voice propels "Goodbye Milky Way" to a spoiled conclusion. Dude, at least hire someone who can sing.

Cretu doesn’t overreach this time, and it’s exactly what his work needed. I hope this means he’s embraced his limitations, because I’m still bracing for the day he samples Pachebel’s Canon in D.