(LP - UMC / Virgin #3576475)

Review by Aaron Latham

Michael Crétu's formula of weaving old and new world sounds through new age atmospherics and dance rhythms has resulted in four Enigma discs that have straddled the line between brilliance and self-indulgence. The plodding bombast of 2000's The Screen Behind the Mirror seemed to signal that Enigma had stretched itself to a point where an explosion of pompous musical goop was imminent. So what's to be done when the bubble's about to burst? Simply ease up, let out some of the stuffy air, and allow for some space to breathe -- and that is what Crétu has done with Voyageur. Utilizing a lighter production style, his compositions benefit from the lack of themes, chants, and assorted ethereal voices that began to plague his discs while still retaining the essence of Enigma. Once again, the songs are seamlessly merged together into a flowing river of music in which there are moments of calm as well as sections that have a swift undercurrent of beats. The mandatory introductory passage, "From East to West," stretches further than on previous discs as its lightly rolling beats and simple melody suggest a move toward ambient electronica. The following title track reinforces this theory as the danceable beat propels the electro-guitar strums and backing organ like a hit song from a car commercial. "Incognito" expands the experiment a bit more by tentatively treading into Chemical Brothers territory and, as if to say he's getting back to basics, Crétu throws in a couple of "Sadeness" samples from Enigma's groundbreaking debut disc. Rounding out the excellent first half of the program is the single-worthy "Boum-Boum," where the pop sounds of *NSYNC exist happily within an Alan Parsons Project world. Although the beats continue with "Look of Today," the second half of Voyageur tends to lose focus as tracks like "Weightless" and "The Piano" sound as if they are lost in some kind of new age netherworld. However, with its strong opening and scaling back of theatrics, Voyageur is one of Enigma's more successful recordings and sheds new light on an old formula.