Album cover: Amarantine


In The Player: Enya

Fred Kuhr

In Newsweekly, 14 December 2005

'Amarantine', Warner Music

Back in 1989 when new-age Irish chanteuse Enya first earned some mainstream success with "Watermark" and the infectious single "Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)," I was mesmerized. Enya's otherworldly musical soundscapes were like nothing I had ever heard before. And "Watermark" remains a classic in the genre.

But subsequent releases, while still as beautifully put together, lost that otherworldliness over time in part because vocalist and songwriter Enya and her cohorts - lyricist Roma Ryan and producer Nicky Ryan - have yet to stray from their original formula of meditative melodies, haunting pianos and strings, ghostly vocals, and overdubs for days.

Given all that, Enya's new release - "Amarantine" - is typically beautiful, even if it is more of the same.

The disc starts off unmistakably Enya - née Eithne Patricia Né­ Bhraoné¡in - with swirling 'Ahhhhhhs' and a majestic buildup leading to a dramatic end. The song, "Less Than A Pearl," is one of three tracks Enya sings in Loxian, a language created by lyricist Roma Ryan that almost takes Enya into Cocteau Twins territory.

A standout that takes Enya in a slightly new direction is "The River Sings," with its thumping tribal beat reminiscent of "Storms In Africa" from "Watermark." It wouldn't surprise me if a dance remix were in the offing. Another new element comes in "Sumiregusa," a slow and plodding beauty of a song that finds Enya singing in Japanese.

In some minds, Enya has become a parody of herself. Grandpa on "South Park," for example, memorably played Enya for Stan in order to show what it feels like to be old. So if you don't like Enya, you won't like "Amarantine." If you are a longtime fan, you'll still enjoy Enya's latest, even if it sounds like her previous work. But if you are a newcomer to Enya - her last CD, 2000's "A Day Without Rain," is her bestselling disc to date - then "Amarantine" was tailor-made for you.

Notes: Transcribed by Book of Days.