Many years ago, in 2009, an album called «Ubiquitous Frequency Oscillation (UFO)» by Joel Kanning landed in my CD player. It was a bit like witnessing a UFO landing. Never had I heard the sound of Enigma emulated so well. Even Michael Cretu was impressed by Joel’s remix of the Enigma song «Downtown Silence». Now, 8 years later, «UFO2» is here. Is the second UFO encounter just as powerful as the first?
In New Age music there are, like in most genres, different schools of sound. Prominent artists and groups are said to be responsible for a specific expression. «The Enigma sound» is a label many artists use on their music, but few does it well. Michael Cretu’s style of pop, ambient and New Age music is extremely hard to imitate.
Before proceeding I must stress that Joel Kanning’s music project is not an Enigma copy or tribute band. Yet the Enigma comparison is important because it shows the level of quality on Kanning’s studio work (Joel has released three albums so far. «Nobis» was his first, released back in 2001). It also gives his music relevance to Enigma’s millions of fans.
The album starts with an Enigma style intro. «Departure» is an eerie piece with sounds of an old gramophone, a distant vocal (I think the voice says «your life is just a dream») and some rich synth pads. Track two, «Cosmic Rhythms», is a wonderful pop-ish song with a groovy female vocal, and some tasteful ethnic and Gregorian samples. It takes a bit to get use to theme, which consists of a few strange, alien sounding vocals. It is pretty and ghostly at the same time. The song has genuine hit potential. With Anggun’s vocal, like on “The Fall of A Rebel Angel”, an perhaps some Universal Music post-production magic, it would have been MTV ready in two hours or less!
Powerful and loud
«Redshift» is a marvelous song. It has such power, such enormous, raw energy. It is loud, like standing close to a big machine. The drumbeat is equally hard. The ambient melody is very well mixed. Some listeners though will find this track to be a bit too much. Next track out, «Dawn of time», is more meditative with ethic samples and a laid-back guitar. Here I can’t help adding yet another Enigma reference; it sounds like Jens Gad’s electric guitar (If that is not a statement of quality, I don’t know what is).
Song 5, «Proles Neptunia», is, in short, a masterpiece. It starts a bit reluctant, but the song grows and develops. The analogue synths and the male vocal sounds amazing. It is a quite complex song, belonging in the crossing point between pop and New Age music. If a new mega star was to emerge from our genre, this is the expression he or she would have. Chilled, atmospheric, soulful – but still safely within the boundaries of pop. «Terra Paradisium» is also a brilliant song. It includes a fresh mix of samples (just make sure not to ask question regarding the unbelievable ethical diversity of the singers). In style it reminds of Karunesh or Guy Sweens. «Universal Language» is another winner. I could listen to it all day.
The Great Unknown
The next three songs, «Sea of Tranquility», «Secret of the Stones» and «Suspended Animation» have a chilled vibe, perfect for dreaming and thinking. One of my favourite songs on the album is «The Great Unknown». I love the deep rhythm and the intricate synth leads. Going into the unknown seems like a great idea. Talking of walking; next track, «Wanderlust», has a great ambient feel to it.
The last track is called «Endless Journey». Yet again I’m amazed by Kanning’s ability to build a melodic structure around complex ethical samples. Eric Mouquet/Deep Forest, or the before mentioned Michael Cretu, couldn’t have done it better.
In conclusion: When Joel’s album «Ubiquitous Frequency Oscillation (UFO)» was released I thought that this was the start of a massive success for this artist. Listening to «UFO2» all these years later, I feel sad that it wasn’t. «UFO2» is in every way a magnificent recording. It is a must for Enigma fans, but anyone who is into New Age music will appreciate this album. If Michael Cretu were to retire today, Joel could take over the Enigma project and release platinum selling albums easily. Joel could even take the project further. That is not an enigma.
Score: 95/100 – See how I rate music here
Check out Joel Kanning’s homepage, where you can sample and purchase the album.