NIGMA started life in an Ibiza studio when Frank Peterson and Michael Cretu began toying with the idea of placing a Gregorian chant atop hip-hop beats. It was something completely new and different for the duo — and not intended to be associated with their other existing projects. So to further the mystery, Cretu and Peterson utilised the pseudonyms Curly M.C. and F. Gregorian respectively. Later during the production of the track Fabrice Guitad was brought in to assist with lyrics, and he too adopted a new name: David Fairstein.
This musical experiment resulted in the controversial single Sadeness, which grew from an underground club-hit into a massive global success selling millions of copies. The theme of the Marquis de Sade and the mystery surrounding the group meant only one word was on the lips of people that year: Enigma.
With the single's astounding success, Peterson and Cretu's goal was to follow it as quickly as possible afterwards with a full-length album. In this way, the 1991 release MCMXC a.D. turned into an extended version of Sadeness, with tracks flowing into the next with themes that would reprise and adapt.
Because Cretu, Peterson and Guitad used pseudonyms, much speculation was made as to who was behind the project. Their identites were made known eventually when a court-case was levelled against the group by a German choir. This was due to claimed copyright infringement for sampling the choir's chants without permission. The case was dismissed though as the chants were considered to be in the public domain.
The lead female vocalist for Enigma was Cretu's wife, Sandra while British-born Louisa Stanley intoned all the spoken passages. However, what made Enigma different from the mainstream was its novel use of samples and chants, both ethnic and religious opposite a remarkable use of technological instruments. Despite the lawsuit, the album went on to create the world-wide craze for so-called 'mood music' with its mixture of chants and modern music. Groups like Deep Forest, Sacred Spirit and Delerium all followed with much success.
After going their separate ways in 1991, Cretu and Peterson never talked or met with one another ever again. Michael continued work on his existing projects, including Enigma.
The Cross Of Changes was the sequel and spawned the hit-single Return To Innocence. This was followed at three-year intervals by Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! and The Screen Behind The Mirror. These albums garnered diminishing sales, but ensured that Enigma became a worldwide phenomenon — prompting a greatest hits collection Love, Sensuality, Devotion to be released afterwards.Cretu completely changed the tried-and-true Enigma sound with Voyageur in 2003.
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