From the house-pop beats of his first hit, 1990’s “Sadeness (Part 1),” to the alt-rock leanings of 1994’s “Return to Innocence,” Enigma’s Michael Cretu has always attempted to evolve his signature sound along with the changing pop trends. With his seventh album, Seven Lives Many Faces, Cretu mixes what he calls “the dirtiest Bronx hip-hop beats” with the lush sounds of the London Symphony Orchestra. Lead single “Seven Lives” fuses said beats and strings with beatboxing and turntable scratches, making for an interesting development in Enigma’s canon. Mixing heavy beats and strings is nothing Kanye or Timbaland (to say nothing of DJ Shadow) haven’t already done, but that’s the least of the album’s problems. The title track starts to unravel as soon as Cretu opens his mouth and tries to sing. The use of English, Cretu’s own voice, and his insistence on writing in traditional pop-rock forms, particularly when all of those things happen at the same time, has diluted the faceless mystery that originally made Enigma so…enigmatic. Some of that quality is regained on “The Same Parents,” which features vocals by Cretu’s twin sons, and “Hell’s Heaven” features some dark, sharp new edges. Whatever little holds the first half of Seven Lives together, however, evaporates into a shapeless puff of new-age synths, absurd lyrics (“Touch me, I’ll be your daddy,” is just one line from “Distorted Love”), and forgettable melodies during the album’s latter stretch. Cretu claims to have close to 400,000 different samples stored in his digital archive, but even though the Gregorian chants and shakuhachi flutes are (sadly) long gone, it still feels like he’s been recycling the same sounds for years.
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