The Shamen

Epic, 1991


REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


At its best, En-Tact by the Scottish quartet known as the Shamen, is a classic techno album that paved the way for bigger names like The Prodigy and Moby. At its worst, the songs all blur together with tedious half-sung, half-spoken lyrics and samples that are far too prominent to make any of them really stand out on their own. Yes, there are two #1 dance cuts that are noteworthy (the beat-heavy “Move Any Mountain” and the jagged “Make It Mine”), but other listenable gems (like “Evil Is Even”) are harder to come by.

The problem with acts like the Shamen is that they tried too hard to be too many things to too many types of people. They had the abrasiveness that appealed to the alternative indie rock set, the hip-hop rhythms and rhymes to win over the inner city crowd and the cutting-edge ambient electronica which made Ecstasy-fueled club-goers swoon. No wonder a label like Sony/Epic was impressed enough to sign them to a record deal. Back in 1991, radio stations like Mars-FM in Los Angeles were created to play nothing but this newest and latest “sound of the future,” which was dubbed techno. Unfortunately, as most trends go, the techno craze would be a short-lived one with limited returns.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Trippy and “out there” as the Shamen were, it still wouldn’t be enough for them (or any other techno outfit, for that matter) to really break through to the mainstream. Top 40 radio certainly didn’t quite know what to do with them, nor did the public. That being said, En-Tact has largely been critic-proof for the main reason that it was one of the very first techno albums to be released on a major label. Ambient techno was always something of an acquired taste though. It was a form of music you could dance to – or “bliss out” to if you were under some kind of controlled substance – but it certainly wouldn’t be of any interest to someone in their 40’s or older.

Compared to the production values of dance records today, En-Tact now sounds downright primitive. On “666 Edit,” there’s even a sample of Rob Base & E-Z Rock’s “It Takes Two” to entice listeners if the rest of it doesn’t do it for them. Songs like “Human NRG” and “Omega Amigo” approach something that resembles a solid melody line, but they are followed up by cluttered, nonsensical tracks like “Oxygen Restriction” and “Hear Me,” which were designed just to fill time and mercifully bring the album to a close. Tacking on remixes as bonus tracks feels depressingly anticlimactic…especially since En-Tact really doesn’t have a climax of any kind to speak of.

Supposedly, their follow-up Boss Drum capitalized on the marginal success of En-Tact and was even better. Sorry, but after hearing all I wanted to hear of the Shamen in 1991, I honestly didn’t have it in me to give them a second chance. And judging from the fact that the Shamen have now ceased to exist entirely, neither did the rest of America.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic, and is used for informational purposes only.