Albums are often released labeled as “sounding like Enigma and Deep Forest”, but this reviewer finds that these albums rarely are on par with masters such as Michael Cretu and Eric Mouquet (the men behind Enigma/Deep Forest). Some of these albums are quite good, but hardly more than that. But sometimes it happens that a new star is born, and one artist that deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Cretu and Mouquet is Joel Kanning. His 2009 album UFO, or Ubiquitous Frequency Oscillation, is a true feast for fans of the above mentioned artists.
An Enigma album is, as you know, all about sound design – which also was the reason for Enigma’s enormous MCMXC A.D– success. The sound design was in the album’s beginning, Sandra’s whispering “turn off the light, Take a deep breath and relax… Start move slowly, very slowly, Let the rhythm be your guiding light” – and then the creative use of Gregorian chants.
The overall sound design is also something one must mention about Joel Kanning’s album. Here too is an intro with some interesting samples (UFO-man talking, saying something like “I am a visitor”), and there is also an Enigma-like ending with a Deep Forest-like selection of ethnical samples.
Here I must stress that UFO is not an Enigma/Deep Forest copy. Not at all. Joel Kanning is, as we shall discuss, taking the sound design of these two artists to a new level. Still, it must be said that Kanning is venturing into a world of sound that these two bands created – and then left! Michael Cretu did never return to Gregorian Chants of 1990. (Kanning did, by the way, create a remix of Enigma’s Downtown Silence which received 2nd Place in a competition – and he has also remixed some of Eric Mouquet’s Deep Projects songs).
The soundscape we are talking about here is created by synth pads (I would guess sound banks close to Yamaha VL1 and Roland VI), sharp strings & plucks, a lot of reverb, a tasteful selection of ethnical samples and bass drums and hihats close to club/euro dance (but with a lower BPM). This is the soundscape all Enigma fans love, and it has been imitated by many artists. The true art in Kanning’s UFO is the creative reuse of this soundscape.
The first song on the albums is called Travellers. It has a nice larger-than-life feel and the Gregorian Chants fit perfectly. Next track out, Ashima, has a more chilled approach. The piano and the strings, yes the whole arrangement, sounds divine. UFO is in all respects a very professional release, and the mastering is nothing but impressive; here is a rare attention to details. The best track on the album is in my opinion One World. It is an example of ethnic fusion, with its soulful samples and beautiful guitar melody. It has the intensity of songs like Why!... and T.N.T. For The Brain from Enigma III.
What makes Joel Kanning different from Enigma and Deep Forest is, apart from the lack of vocals, a less complicated atmosphere. It is simply more chilled, without the mixed emotions of Enigma’s Silent Warrior or Deep Forest’ You will be ready. It is just not that deep, not that enigmatic. But that might be a good thing if you are looking for relaxation music. As a new age music radio host I couldn’t have been happier with this album. All of the songs are interesting and have a nice build up.
Yes, UFO is indeed “sounding like Enigma and Deep Forest”. But it also has an identity of its own. To quote the Enigma III title, Le Roi Est Mort, Vive Le Roi! (French for “The King is Dead, Long Live the King!”). Except, Cretu and Mouquet are still alive, well and producing music. But they have left this particular soundscape behind – and here Joel Kanning is the new king.
Play the album on: