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Album Review

Ever since the surprise (not to say bizarre) commercial success of the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos with their chart-topping 1994 album of Gregorian chant, record labels have been trying to make lightning strike twice by releasing albums of contemplative liturgical music with new agey cover art. One of the smarmier but more successful attempts was made by Enigma, who had hit the charts in 1990 with "Sadeness," a squicky fusion of softcore French porn, medieval melodies, and club beats. Magna Canta is something of a meta-fusion of those two fusions — Junior Deros and Ray Federico take the high-minded spirituality of the monks (or at least a well-meaning, if woolly-headed, approximation of it) and combine it with the warm and fuzzy funkiness of Enigma, creating music that is meant to "transport the listener on wings of angels to another time and place as a journey into distant memories from a forgotten time open a realm of mystery and sacredness." Making fun of that kind of talk wouldn't be sporting, and to be fair, the music is all really very pleasant: it's mostly sung by a choir, which really does sound pretty good, and the beats are well constructed and tasteful. One track, "Japan," even adds another dimension of cultural fusion by bringing in the voice and lyrics of one Marianne Shimisu, to nice effect. But if you're looking for transcendence rather than simple pleasantness, you'll need to look elsewhere (e.g., Palestrina or Hildegard von Bingen).

Sanctuary, Magna Canta
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