Enya: The Memory of Trees
Hot Press (Ireland) November 1995
ENYA: The Memory of Trees (Warner)
'ANYWHERE IS', the unavoidable first single taken from this much-heralded follow-up to the eight-million selling Shepherd Moons, is infectiously catchy and in that sense represents a worthy successor to 'Orinoco Flow', her 1988 number one. But it is one of a kind: the remainder of this typically multi-layered, wonderfully-produced, echo-laden affair, is less melodically and rhythmically accessible and deliberately so. The Memory of Trees is by turns, more textural and cinematic in its overall approach. But this, apparently, is how Enya's legions of devoted fans like it and in that respect they won't be disappointed.
The title track, an "instrumental with voices", is just that: swathes of sweeping, rolling synthesizers and vocal sounds are constructed into a postmodern Phil Spector-esque piece of Gothic sonic architecture that remains so ethereal and celestial, it makes her siblings in Clannad sound like a garage band. 'Pax Deorum' is another fine piece, based around a haunting Latin chant that will no doubt provide a suitable aural soundtrack to many a New Age soirée. Meanwhile, the only Gaelic lyrics on the album feature on the hymn-like but engaging 'Athair Ar Neamh'.
Coming as it does judiciously placed halfway through the proceedings, the less complex, piano-based instrumental, 'From Where I Am', with its languid atmospherics, provides a welcome relief from the barrage of digital sounds. Elsewhere the other instrumental, 'Tea-House Moon', broadens the canvas further with its strong Chinese influences.
Throughout, the huge choral effects on the voice are a production triumph of painstaking perfectionism. But Enya has an angelic, attractive voice, stripped back, and its purity can be heard more clearly and appropriately, on 'Once You Had Gold'. The album closes with the optimistic 'On My Way Home' - a likely future single which could, with repeated listening, insinuate itself into your heart in the way that 'Anywhere Is' already has for so many.
Incidentally, it says on the sleeve notes that Enya plays all the instruments but, unusually, doesn't state what they are. Then again, I suppose there are only so many ways of describing a keyboard! Either way, with the instinctively appropriate support of lyricist Roma Ryan and the venerable Nicky Ryan at the production controls, Enya has made a singular and impressive record. I see no reason why The Memory of Trees shouldn't eclipse even her inordinate successes to date.
She may not convince three-chord trick merchants or those who insist that they want their music down 'n' dirty. But that was never the object of the exercise. The Memory of Trees is music of the spheres.
Note: Transcribed by Louise Ní Fharrachair.