The Shamen – En-Tact

In 1990, The Shamen were on the verge of being at the top of their game. Move Any Mountain, or Pro-Gen, as it was also sometimes known, was just beginning to storm the charts, and the five or so years of continuous hits which would follow were just about to begin. But the growth of their popularity was tempered by the tragic death of long-term member Will Sin in 1991, which seems to have affected them very deeply, although they barely took time to breathe before reappearing with Boss Drum in 1992.

In the years which followed, the 1991 US version of En-Tact seems to have become the definitive one – the long dull acid sections which plagued the original release were relegated and replaced by more accessible pieces. It opens with Move Any Mountain, which is a brilliant place to begin – it’s accessible pop, but also very contemporary dance music, and it’s easy to see why it ended up being such a huge hit.

Then comes Human NRG, not a single, but every bit as good as its neighbours. The production was from Graham Massey, of 808 State, and sounds like the best imaginable combination of The Shamen and Massey’s own works.

The brilliant underground Possible Worlds follows, possibly even the best track on here, as it mixes hard-hitting beats with soft and gentle ambiance. As with much of The Shamen‘s output, the lyrics are total gibberish, but once you accept that, it’s an easy track to enjoy.

Omega Amigo follows a similar pattern. This was actually, perhaps surprisingly, the first single from the album, released back in 1989. It’s catchy, daft, and fun. Which is what you want from the early 1990s. This is followed by an edited version of the interminable deep house Evil is Even, which is just about digestible in four-minute form.

Hyperreal Orbit comes next, William Orbit‘s acid take on one the penultimate and second most successful single from the album. It’s an odd hit, with some particularly bizarre lyrics, but Orbit’s production really brings out its better sides. Similarly, the edited version of Lightspan which follows is rather brilliant in its own way, heavily hinting of future directions for The Shamen.

The other single Make it Mine comes next. It wasn’t a huge hit, although it’s one of the catchier moments on here. This version features an oddly low vocal, so possibly needs a bit of work on the equalisation, but it’s easy to recognise it as a good track nonetheless.

At this point, the person compiling the US version of En-Tact from the pieces of the original album appears to have given up somewhat, as the pointless Oxygen Restriction gives way to Orbital‘s sub-par Hear Me and then 666 Edit, a particularly lousy remix of Move Any Mountain. Proceedings don’t pick up until the next of the alternative versions, Make it Minimal, and even that isn’t as good as the version we heard earlier. Hyperreal Selector suffers much the same fate.

Lightspan Soundwave is hard to fault, though – the breakdown between the riff may not be quite as powerful as the original version, but it’s still great while the riff is going. Then, finally, another version of Move Any Mountain (actually it’s Progen 91, but you’re unlikely to care) the I.R.P. in the Land of Oz version, which is a broken down, slightly extended take.

Ultimately, dispense with the remixes on the end, and you’ve got a pretty good album here. Sure, it falls apart a bit towards the end, but plenty of other albums do. As a first step into the world of chart hits and commercial pop, En-Tact is a pretty good release.

The US version of En-Tact is still widely available.

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