Enya's 'Trees': That Eire Quality
Washington Post (USA) 7 January 1996
Irish singer, composer and keyboardist Enya is often described as a new age artist, a conjurer of dreamy mood music steeped in Celtic traditions. Her new album, The Memory of Trees (Reprise), will do nothing to alter her dream-weaver image, as it's brimming with the kind of lush orchestrations, celestial harmonies and mystical imagery that distinguished her last two recordings, 1988's Watermark and 1991's Shepherd Moons.
Both of those albums met with considerable critical and commercial success -- the latter, in fact, went on to sell 9 million copies worldwide. And there's good reason to believe that "Trees" will extend that streak, but not because Enya is simply repeating herself. The album has a lyrical grace and spiritual power of its own, not to mention some pop smarts, and the combination is potent enough to make most new age offerings seem utterly dull by comparison.
For all the painstaking production work that goes into making her recordings, Enya (née Eithne Ní Bhraonáin) could easily get along on her voice alone. Bred on traditional Irish folk music, she possesses a lovely soprano that's easy on the ears and yet capable of expressing the longing emotions that lie at the heart of Irish music. In the studio, however, her voice often undergoes an almost magical transformation, as producer Nicky Ryan layers one vocal track over another to create a cascading shower of harmonies.
On "Trees," the effect is even more striking than usual. The vocal textures add to the glistening luster and the rolling momentum of the opening (and title) track; they create the illusion of a one-woman choir on several ballads; and they make the occasional leap from English to Gaelic verse as seamless as it is enchanting. At times the sumptuous vocals complement Enya's synthesizer arrangements, bringing warmth and poignancy to 'Hope Has a Place' and 'Once You Had Gold.' At other times, they help highlight Enya's often overlooked pop sensibility. For evidence of that, one need look no further than 'Anywhere Is,' with its wondrously spun harmonies, swiftly revolving melody and resonating backbeat, or 'On My Way Home,' which boasts a thoroughly engaging chorus and closes the album on a cheerful note. As in the past, Enya composed and performed all of the music while Roma Ryan wrote the lyrics. Their contributions, however, are so tightly woven they often seem as if they've sprung from the same source. But perhaps that's because the composer and the lyricist share an interest in the album's recurring themes of heritage and home, remembrance and continuity.