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Mar 11

ENIGMA – “Sadness Part 1”

Popular73 comments • 6,228 views

#657, 19th January 1991

Time has not been especially kind to Enigma: “Sadness Part 1” sounds today like an almost parodically generic chillout track. Its mysteries have evaporated – what remains is a ponderous mix of particularly banal elements. Gregorian chant? Synthesised pan pipes? Give over!

Were the group more impressive at the time? Are they a victim of their success? After all, juxtaposition relies for its effect on the idea that its components don’t generally fit together – if they slot in place too well then everyone does it. The worst thing that can happen to a track like “Sadness Part 1” is that it starts to sound natural – and this is pretty much what’s happened. Back in 1991 though, with ambient a buzzword again, there was a sense that even if Enigma weren’t touched by genius they were operating at least within shouting distance of credibility.

What sunk them back then is curiously what redeems them a little now, when their music feels so threadbare. Everything on this track is naff, but the breathy vocals – “Sade, dis-moi!” – are at least a different kind of naff, putting the single into a tradition of low-budget Euro-schlock as much as a New Age lineage. (The track was called “Sadeness” – as in the Marquis – in its European releases). Chains, cowled figures, monkish chanting, a damsel gasping – this is an old-school Gothic sensibility, and always welcome. But as with all Enigma’s other aesthetic borrowings – the track reminds me a bit of Lil Louis, of Dead Can Dance, of The Orb – there’s something reserved and half-hearted about the execution, and “Sadness Part 1” peters where it ought to peak.

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Comments

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  1. 51
    Erithian on 9 Mar 2011 #

    So which was the worst Enigma? The Gregorian chant and panpipes ensemble? The bandwagon-jumping Shakatak-linked medley merchants? Or 23 Daves’ disgruntled local heavy metal band? There’s only one way to find out… FIIIIGHT!

    (Next week: which was the best Nirvana?)

  2. 52
    punctum on 9 Mar 2011 #

    #42: OH NOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

    #51: The one with Kate Winslet was pretty ropey.

  3. 53
    MikeMCSG on 9 Mar 2011 #

    52 Yeah not the greatest film in the world but I do admire Kate for staying frumpy throughout and not insisting on a Streisand-esque transformation scene.

  4. 54
    Ed on 9 Mar 2011 #

    54 And she’s in that film about Sade, too. Geoffrey Rush as Sade, Joaquin Phoenix as an earnest young priest?

    Is this record the key to her entire career?

    Apparently, ‘Return to Innocence’ was the original working title for ‘Titanic’.

  5. 55
    Steve Mannion on 9 Mar 2011 #

    The best Enigma single is ‘Age Of Loneliness’. I also prefer Praise’s ‘Only You’ (it was on an advert but for what car or perfume or perfumed car?) to ‘Sadness’. ‘Return To Innoncence’ was horrendous but they’re all inferior to The Grid’s ‘Floatation’ which plays down the ‘spiritual’ overtones in favour of cute samples (“that’s magic that is, magic” / “and it’s groovy I guess!”).

  6. 56
    LondonLee on 10 Mar 2011 #

    My more Rave-going, Ecstacy-swallowing flatmates loved this and I thought it was dull wallpaper. Though we shared a lot of other musical tastes they were a few years younger than me and I was starting to sense a divide.

  7. 57
    Tim Byron on 11 Mar 2011 #

    I remember finding this song puzzling as a 9 year old. I remember alternating between thinking it was irritating and thinking it was interestingly mysterious. It’s associated in my head with ‘Losing My Religion’ by REM, two songs that at the time seemed mournful and I guess religious in some way I didn’t understand – something that maybe I’d understand when I was older.

    I am very surprised watching the YouTube video that it takes 2 whole minutes before the song gets to the whispered bit that sounds like ‘sa-tim-wha’, which was the only bit of the song I could remember in my head, and presumably the main hook?

    It sounds like a moody 90s coffee commercial backing track to me now and little more. The element in the song that’s worth most of the 4 is the chanting monks, who are mostly what made it sound even remotely mysterious.

  8. 58

    Various and extensive sukratty thorts on this record and others HERE : abandon soap all ye who enter etc

  9. 59
    xyzzzz__ on 28 Mar 2011 #

    I mean it always makes me smile as to the kind of things that are thrown together on making this record.

    In some ways there is far more going on behind it than on something like KLF where you’d have rap and country and queen and ABBA could be thrown into the mix — but of course it would sound good! But too obvious…I kind of admire the risk taking here. And, as it was a no. 1, it totally paid off :-)

  10. 60
    sgw on 27 Sep 2012 #

    Tom the reviewer must be being ironic surely? So Enigma virtually begin a style of music which is then copied and subsequently accused of being a parody? What about all the people who have ripped the Beatles off? Does that make the Beatles a parody?
    There was nothing like it at the time…..do your history

  11. 61
    Auntie Beryl on 13 Jan 2013 #

    It’s something I do feel somewhat ashamed of twenty two years later, but I bought into this, Only You by Praise*, and Sweet Lullaby by Deep Forest at the time. I liked Innocence (the Floyd-sampling studio project) as well, more song-based whilst sharing a similar atmosphere. I was 18.

    By 1993 and the second Enigma album, I had wised up. It didn’t help that Return To Innocence was almost unlistenable given how annoying the vocal hook was, but I think I had realised how ridiculous these Concepts were. It was diminishing returns for Enigma from then on, but Sadeness still merits a 6 from me.

    * Praise featured vocals from Miriam Stockley, who was on her way from doing backing vocals on Kylie and Jason record during peak SAW to eventually being part of the Karl Jenkins Adiemus project, which owes much to Sadeness, I guess.

  12. 62
    Siorapaluk on 1 Aug 2013 #

    Hey people, what’s your problem with Enigma ?
    You just need a proper stereo system to play it on – then it will blast your brains out.
    If it sounds crappy on your little phones, don’t blame the artist…. ;-)

  13. 63
    James BC on 1 Aug 2013 #

    So if I spend, say, £1000 I can get the chance to fully appreciate Enigma? Seems like a good deal to me.

    EDIT: Plus £1.99 for the CD in a charity shop or bargain bin, obviously

  14. 64
    Tom on 1 Aug 2013 #

    We should get a Kickstarter going.

  15. 65
    Cumbrian on 1 Aug 2013 #

    Only if we can get Enigma to do a version of this too:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFlmEznsr2w

  16. 66
    Another Pete on 1 Aug 2013 #

    #65 Be My Boogie Woogie Baby by Mr Walkie Talkie

  17. 67
    hectorthebat on 20 Mar 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    Woxy.com (USA) – Modern Rock 500 Songs of All Time (combined rank 1989-2009) 591
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

  18. 68
    Mostro on 15 Apr 2015 #

    I never really got what all the fuss was about with this one.

    What stood out for me at the time was the dated-sounding (even then) way that the sampled nature of the pan pipes was highlighted.

    Yes, sampling was everywhere in the 90s, but *this* sounded like someone messing around with the novelty of their first sampling keyboard (*) in the mid 80s.

    Of course, it’s quite clear that the panpipes weren’t *meant* to sound real, but the novelty of sampled sound had already been played around with to much better (and less clunky) effect circa 1985. By 1991, it wasn’t novel any more. It’s not clear what they were going for, but it doesn’t work.

    The rest of the song… as I said, I just didn’t get what the fuss was about. I don’t care enough about it to think any more than that.

    (*) Especially the bit around ten seconds after they first come in when a fast succession of notes goes out of sync with the music.

  19. 69
    Chinny Reckon on 24 May 2015 #

    The ‘panpipes’ are not panpipes, they are (synthesised) shakuhachi, sampled from the same sample library source as ‘Sledgehammer’ by Peter Gabriel, amongst many other records.

    What gets me is that somebody insisted on changing the track title to ‘Sadness’- presumably because the Great British public were deemed too stupid to realise what it meant.

  20. 70
    Mostro on 16 May 2016 #

    Chinny Reckon @69 ; I ought to have known that but I’d assumed they (and similar samples) were panpipes long before I knew any better and I think I still have them mentally filed there..!

    I’m not bothered about the fact they’re standard presets or a sampler cliche (didn’t hurt the “orchestra hit” exactly). It’s just the “noodling about with a sampler keyboard” way they’re used that sounds distracting and pointless.

    As far as the name change goes, I suspect someone was paranoid that the Great British Public would have wondered what sort of a tribute this was to “Your Love is King”.

  21. 71
    endee on 18 Jun 2016 #

    this song was great to me.(sadeness). it was like having a gig in a Catholic church.

  22. 72
    Mark G on 23 Jun 2016 #

    I did wonder “What was part two, if this is part one?” It turns out that this was part one (or so) of a longer piece called “Principles of Lust”

    Wonder what Wunnerful Radio 1 would have made of that one?

  23. 73
    Kinitawowi on 23 Jun 2016 #

    Yeah, Part One and reprised for Part Three, with Find Love in the middle (Part Two being the one that sticks most in my mind for some reason). MCMXC AD had another three part suite at the end too (“Back To The Rivers Of Belief”). And The Screen Behind The Mirror was basically a concept album themed around O Fortuna.

    Enigma: New Age meets Gregorian Chant meets Prog!

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