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After Enigma - A Guide to Nu Ambient Music
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Mainstream Artists


Afro Celt Sound System


Most of the Artists featured on this site are, in actuality, one or two producers who take advantage of modern technology and guest musicians to create full, rich audio recordings. With eight members, most of whom had successful careers prior to joining the group, the Afro Celts (as they are sometimes credited) are a stark exception. They do bring in guests, and there is a strong electronic component to their music, but the virtuosity of this group of musicians is truly amazing. Loyal fans maintain a thorough website - just don't get too engrossed to come back here.

Brian Eno


This former member of Art Rock group Roxy Music is widely considered the inventor of Ambient music. In fact, he coined the term "Ambient Music" and explained its meaning in liner notes.

Conjure One


Conjure One is Rhys Fulber's side project, and very much in line with his recent Delerium work (contrasted with pre-Semantic Spaces Delerium, which was more of a dark, experimental/ambient project). Like Delerium, these albums feature a mix of pop-structured songs and longer, instrumental tracks. Rhys Fulber has mentioned that some contributors have become semi-permanent members: vocalist Jane (formerly known as Poe) and the guitarist from the most recent album.


Deep Forest


The French duo of Michel Sanchez and Eric Moquet are well-known among fans of World Music, and the inclusion of a Deep Forest track on the original Pure Moods compilation justifies their position among this elite group, despite their not receiving mainstream radio play (that I know of). In general, each of their albums is focused on the folk music of a particular region, or of a few regions. Many Nu Ambient artists assimilate the sounds of other cultures; Deep Forest starts with regional music, and builds a musical frame around it. Spreading awareness of other cultures seems to be a goal of these producers, and their liner notes typically provide information about their source material.


Delerium


Unless you're very new to this genre, you probably know who Delerium is. They are commercially successful enough to be on sale in the pop/rock section of most music stores, and Silence (feat. Sarah McMcLachlan's lyrics and vocals) from their album Karma received a fair amount of radio play. What you may not know is how massively prolific Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber are outside of Delerium. I could go into the details of their discography myself, but I think it would be much more rewarding for all involved to send you to www.delerium.com; not only do they provide a thourough discography, they also have quite a few out-of-print songs and videos available for download. Don't expect to like everything you find, though - these guys have released a slew of albums in the Industrial and more experimental electronic genres. Only those with the most diverse of musical tastes will like all of it.

As one might expect, given Leeb and Fulber's other musical endeavours, Delerium and friends fall on the darker side of the music featured on this site. In fact, I've heard a number of their tracks at dark-scene (read "goth") clubs in Austin and San Antonio. Nevertheless, they're not depressing - "mysterious," "hypnotic," or "provocative" would be better descriptors. They skillfuly combine world music samples with synths and always have solid beats. Their tracks are typically long, forcing interesting variations on standard pop song structure.


Enigma


Michel Cretu, the man behind Enigma, really started the ball rolling. I'm sure some music historians would be happy to explain that he did not, in fact, start anything - rather he copied x, who was heavily influenced by y, who was practically a student of z, on back to the beginnings of Gregorian Chant. Fine. I concede that Cretu didn't invent music, and he probably didn't even invent this genre. What he did do was produce an incredibly popular and accessible series of albums that put the genre on the radio, and into the ears of the masses.

Enigma was particularly influential in the development of my musical tastes. I vividly remember the first time I saw the advertisement for the original Pure Moods CD on television - I was in junior high school, on vacation with my family in Galveston. When I heard Return to Innocence, I was spellbound. Soon after we returned home, I bought Cross of Changes, and it has led me to where I am - writing my own music, and creating a site for fans of the genre Enigma helped to create.

Given that you're here, you probably already know what Enigma sounds like, but since I compare everything to Enigma, I provide this section of the site as a point of reference.

Enigma's albums generally feel like concept albums, though the most recent seems less so. MCMXC A.D. is the chant album, Cross of Changes the tribal album, etc. I like that, but I also like a good bit of variety between the songs - some with pop structure (verse-chorus-verse-chorus), some without - some instrumental, some vocal - light and dark moods, etc. The songs aren't overly saccharine, like some New Age music, but neither are they consistenly dark. I like a good beat most of the time, but occasional atmospheric tracks greatly enhance the albums as self-contained artistic works. Finally, Enigma fuses the disparate musical sensibilities of western music with other musical cultures seamlessly. I honestly don't listen to the older Enigma albums that often anymore - I've listened to them so many times in the past, that I can hear most of the tracks in my head. Though my favorite band or album fluctuates from day to day and hour to hour, if I had to pick an all-time favorite, Enigma would be it.


Loreena McKennitt


Frequently (and justifiably) associated with Celtic music, singer and songwriter Loreena McKennit has also incorporated Arabian, Moroccan, and Spanish influences into her distinct style.

Make no mistake, this is not really Nu Ambient music - it is a different way of fusing many of the same musical elements. In place of drum machines, you will hear a myriad of hand percussion. Acoustic instruments are the rule, rather than the exception. It often finds the soulfulness of New Age music, but is perfectly willing to go to darker places.

McKennitt's popularity and musical maturity grew through the 90's, peaking with significant radio play of The Mummers' Dance in 1997. According to the Wikipedia, she experienced a personal tragedy in 1998, and I assume that this is the cause of her 9-year recording hiatus. A new album is on the horizon, though.


Mythos


The music of this Candadian duo has a distinct, mysterious sound, the core of which is a virtusosic entwining of piano and guitar, played by producers Bob D'Eith and Paul Schmidt respectively. Support is provided by a combination of synthesizers and session musicians. Mythos' website is informative and aesthetically pleasing, so have a look there, too.

Sacred Spirit


You may have heard that Michael Cretu didn't want the public to know who created Enigma. That's why he's credited as "Curly M.C." on the first Enigma album. Ironically, Sacred Spirit's producer Claus Zundel has come much nearer to achieving truly enigmatic obscurity, despite platinum record sales and multiple Grammy nominations. Googling his name (or his alias, "The Brave") yields sparse results, and I cannot find any kind of home page for Sacred Spirit or B-Tribe (Zundel's other major project).

Morpheus Music hosts the most definitive discography I can find, but I still have unanswered questions. An Amazon search confirms the existence of Sacred Spirit Volumes 1, 2, 8, and 9. Do Indigo Spirit, Classical Spirit and Moroccan Spirit represent some of the missing volumes? There are listings for Volume 3 on both the German and Japanese Amazon sites, but the Japanese listing has no picture or track listing, and the German version is listed as a Japanese import with the same cover art as Volume 2. Assuming all these are members of the series, there is still one Volume that is completely unaccounted for.

Since Zundel has provided no clear way to organize his work, I'm making my own judgment call, and including anything with the word "Spirit" in its title here. B-Tribe will eventually have a separate page.


Sarah Brightman


Brightman is probably best known as the star who first portrayed Christine in Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera. Though her days on the musical theatre stage are by no means forgotten, Brightman has since released albums featuring both classical arias and, of more interest to us, a light sort of Classical/World Fusion/Pop. Though Enigma's Michael Cretu has expressed something less than fondness for her Brightman and her voice, the two artists have many mutual fans.