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After Enigma - A Guide to Nu Ambient Music
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Achillea


You've heard Jens Gad's guitar on Enigma's The Cross of Changes, The Screen Behind the Mirror, and Voyageur. As Achillea, Gad is joined by a different guest vocalist on each album. The musical result is unmistakably related to Enigma without being derivative.


Amethystium


ōystein Ramfjord's solo project was among the most successful on the original MP3.com. From this success came a signing with Nerodisc Records, and a series of successful albums - the second, Aphelion, was Number 1 on the New Age Reporter's 2003 airplay chart. In my opinion, Amethystium is the divine quintessence of instrumental Nu Ambient music.


Azam Ali


Iranian by birth, raised in India, and living in America, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Azam Ali creates music that blends the traditions of all three cultures. You may also know her as half of the World duo Vas. Her website will direct you to her various other projects.

Balligomingo


I am disinclined to say much about the biography behind Balligomingo - Windam Hill seems to be pushing the story that producer Garret Schwarz is basically responsible for the whole album, but I get the feeling that other contributors might be more influential than implied. Read the bio on Windam Hill's site and take a look at the album's liner notes - you can come to your own conclusions.


Banco de Gaia


British producer Toby Marks started releasing electronic music under this pseudonym in the early 90's. His style is varied, and draws from a wide range of musical traditions. Well-loved by critics, I view Banco de Gaia as a bridge between Mainstream and Experimental music.

Blue Stone


Producers Robert Smith and Bill Walters create synthesizer-based soundscapes on top of groovy beats, bringing in guest vocalists for both atmospheric washes of voice and lyrical songs. Their debut tended toward a unified New Age experience, while the following albums are collections of Ambient Pop songs featuring various vocalists.

Bombay Dub Orchestra


British production duo Garry Hughes and Andrew MacKay went to India to conduct and record the cream of the local talent. They integrate these recordings with Chillout beats and soundscapes to create a mellow World Fusion. Their home page reveals their story in more detail.

Ceredwen


There are hints of Enigma and Enya in Ceredwen's music, but it really has a sound all its own. Vocals are provided by Renťe Gray, and mix a processed sound with the traditional Celtic aesthetic. The music combines celtic instruments with electronic elements. A distinguishing trait of Ceredwen's is the mixture of traditional percussion with with modern recorded and electronic kits.


DaKsha


Romanian duo George Constantinescu and Catalin Truta produce instrumental music not unlike Mythos and Amethystium. Their website offers a detailed biography and discography.

Eden


Producer Trammell Starks incorporates guitars and a Rock idiom into the Ambient Pop genre, with the help of a number of vocalists and other session musicians.

Era


Former guitarist-rocker Eric Levi began composing film scores in the early 1990's, and shortly thereafter created Era, a project that fuses Gregorian Chant-style choral singing with rock beats, in the style of Enigma's MCMXC A.D.. Though Era has released three original albums and a compilation, only the debut is available domestically in the U.S. As of this writing, the project's official website is very pretty, and very out of date.

Euphoria


This fusion project was created by former television composer and guitarist Ken Ramm. Apparently, Ramm has kept up with his old industry contacts, since Euphoria tracks have been used in a number of television shows and commercials. Ramm cites Steve Sidelnyk, drummer, as strongly influencing the most recent album. Apparently Mr. Sidelnyk is responsible for the album's similarities to Mezzanine-era Massive Attack, with whom he has previously worked. I'm taking the Euphoria's word for all of this...


Ikarus


Wolfgang Stindl is a World Fusion producer from the "heart of Europe" (so says the Ikarus homepage, which appears to be an Austrian site). Similar in style to Waterbone or Deep Forest, Stindl has been releasing a steady of flow of albums that combine musical samples from myriad cultures with electronics and beats since 2001.

Intermix


You almost certainly know Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber as Delerium. You may not know that they were first successful as Industrial act Front Line Assembly, a pseudonym under which they continue to record. Over the course of their career, they have released albums under a multitude of different names. Most of their side projects are flirtations with different genres, and Intermix seems to have begun as a foray into Techno. Of interest to us, though, is the third and final Intermix release, which was a stepping stone between the Dark and Experimental Ambient of early Delerium and the Ambient Pop Delerium of today.

Jens Gad Presents


You may not know his name, but if you're here, you almost certainly know his music. Jens is variously credited as guitarist and co-producer of Enigma, and when you listen to this or his releases under the name Achillea, the shared influence is clear. Speaking of Achillea, I'm not sure what the difference is between "Achillea" and "Jens Gad Presents" - he seems to be releasing similar albums under both names. If you figure it out, drop me a line.

Kopas


Ivan Kopas has been producing since the early 90's, primarily in the electronic realm, but occasionally working in other genres (and with major artists, like Korn). Sixteen years into his professional career, Neurodisc Records began publishing Kopas' work under his own name. The stylistic range and the Electronic aesthetic of his music bear the mark of these years in the industry.

LesiŽm


It is somewhat tempting to call this German-based group a direct rip-off of early Enigma, but that would be unfair. While Enigma's influence is clearly present, the songwriting and arrangement of producer Alex Wende have a distinct and powerful sound. Thomas Pflanz contributes Latin lyrics, which are sung by an all-male choir on the first two albums, and a mixed choir on the third. Though frequently reminescent of Gregorian Chant, the choirs' performances are not strictly limited to this style. LesiŽm's albums are also characterized by a great variety of solists and strong but subtle synths and bass lines.

In addition to LesiŽm's official website, you may find this Russian fansite useful.

Note: LesiŽm's albums are released by different labels, with different titles and packaging on different sides of the Atlantic. Living in Texas, I refer to the American releases.


Magna Canta


I've been unable to find any biographical information about this group. Their record label is IntentCity, which is also managing American distribution of Lesiëm. Common elements across Magna Canta's tracks are Gregorian chants and dancy beats, similar in style to Enigma's MCMXC A.D.


Moya


In case you don't keep up with the genealogy of the Irish musician community, you might find it interesting to know that Moya (Maire Brennan) and Enya (Eithne Brennan) are sisters. Furthermore, the rockier Irish band Clannad is composed of their family members, and Maire/Moya was a founding member of the band in the early 70's. Enya's involvement was apparently limited to a short stint in the early 80's. This should help to explain both the similarities of Moya's sound to Enya's, and why Moya wasn't afraid of getting sued over the likeness ;)


Mysteria


Producer Mark Adams Allison, also known as "Phobos," has released a few Trance and New Age albums under both names over the past decade or so. He has now signed to IntentCity records under the project name of "Mysteria," and is producing Nu Ambient with a hint of Worldbeat.

Riccardo Eberspacher


There seems to be scant information about Riccardo floating around the English-speaking Internet, but a search on IMDB reveals that he's been composing music for Italian short films and television since the early 1990's. Don't read too much into the term "composer" - while traditional string arrangements are a core component of his music, it reflects electronic and world influences as well.

Sleepthief


Producer, lawyer, and music journalist Justin Elswick, assisted by co-producer Israel Curtis, creates Ambient Pop in the style of Delerium and Balligomingo, with an emphasis on the "Pop". Fans of these groups will recognize some of the fantastic guest vocalists who lend their voices to Sleepthief's songs. More details can be found at Musical Discoveries, a site akin to this one for which Justin writes, and at the Sleepthief home page.

Spirit Nation


This is beat-driven world fusion with a focus on Native American tradional music. Though the liner notes of the first Spirit Nation album led me to believe that vocalist Judy Crescenzo was the impetus behind the project, an hour of scouring the web eventually revealed that this project is really Waterbone by another name. Well, that's not quite right either - Jimmy Waldo (producer, synthesist) and David Evans (executive producer, guitarist) created Spirit Nation without Waterbone's D. Kendall Jones. In any case, the second Spirit Nation album features a completely different vocalist, so my initial impression was obviously wrong. This is the best bio I've been able to find.


State of Grace


Paul Schwartz is the mind behind three projects. They all involve an orchestra, a very unique electronic element, and beautiful female vocals. The vocals on the Aria albums are fairly operatic, those on the Paul Schwartz Project album are more poppy (in the sense that Sarah Brightman sounds poppy at times), and the State of Grace albums vary between the poppier vocal style and the use of a full classical choir. Very good stuff for fans of neo-classicism.


Synaesthesia


Yet another side project of Bill Leeb and Rhys Fulber, who you may know better as Delerium (and in Fulber's case, Conjure One). Under this pseudonym, they released three dark Ambient albums in the mid-90's.

The Paul Schwartz Project


Though it seems redundant to say so, this is one of Paul Schwartz' three projects. Essentially, this is State of Grace without the choir; Lisbeth Scott provides most of the vocals and is backed by a string orchestra, with a healthy dose of synthesizer.

TYA


Martin Scherl, German musician and producer, is the man behind TYA. I started out with his second album, and thought he was intentionally following the Enigma model with an Aboriginal-vocal theme. Now that I've reviewed the first album, I think he started out writing around that vocal style, and evolved into the Nu Ambient sound. You can check out its site at Sequoia Records' website, but there's really not that much information there.


Uttara-Kuru


Japanese production duo Seiichi Kyoda and Kazumasa Yoshioka combine the traditional instruments of their homeland with modern studio techniques and instruments, creating quality Japanese World Fusion.

Waterbone


It is unsurprising that this duo of producers, who incorporate the sounds of a particular region into each album, are often compared to Deep Forest. Prog-rocker Jimmy Waldo and classical composer D. Kendall Jones stand out, however, in that they travel to exotic locales themselves to obtain first-hand recordings of the regional music that Waterbone features. You can read more about their respective backgrounds at New Earth Records.