CD Review of A Posteriori by Engima

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A Posteriori
starno starno starno starno star Label: Virgin
Released: 2006
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e-nig-ma - [uh-nig-muh] –noun, plural -mas, -ma-ta - [-muh-tuh]

1. a puzzling or inexplicable occurrence or situation: That this act is still releasing albums is a real enigma.

Once upon a time, a guy named Michael Crétu slapped Gregorian chanting against some dancefloor beats, called himself Enigma, and wound up with a huge, left-field hit. Enigma’s first album, 1990’s MCMXC A.D., was popular for all the right reasons: It was the result of obvious labor and impeccable craft, it didn’t really sound like anything else that was popular at the time, and it featured monks. Unfortunately, it also provided the template for everything else Crétu would go on to do, which is to say it sounds pretty much like every other Enigma record.

To be fair, Crétu has tinkered with the formula a bit here and there – most notably, 2000’s The Screen behind the Mirror swiveled around themes and samples from “O Fortuna” – but by and large, there are a number of things you can count on from an Enigma album. They are, in no particular order: Canned beats, neo-classical elements, attractive packaging, and New Age horseshit.

On this last count, the new album does not disappoint. The liner notes declare that A Posteriori “is dedicated to all visionaries of human race” (definite articles are apparently either beneath Crétu or beyond the ability of EMI’s proofreaders to comprehend) before declaring that “In 5 billion years the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with our Milky Way. A new gigantic COSMIC WORLD will be born.”

The music seems to have something to do with the latter idea. One song, after all, is titled “Goodbye Milky Way.” Nobody listens to Enigma to hear what the songs are about anyway, so it doesn’t matter, but that leads us to an interesting question: who’s buying this stuff? It isn’t bad, necessarily, but why in the world does anybody need more than one Enigma album? There are petrified forests that have shown more growth in the last fifteen years. Outside of possibly Kenny G, there may be no one in all of music who has so successfully milked such a limited palette for such a long period of time.

This is impressive – fascinating, even – on many levels. But none of those levels are musical. A Posteriori (it means “what comes after” or “behind,” not “pulled out of one’s butt”) is one of the most puzzlingly inessential releases of the year.

~Jeff Giles