New Day (USA) November 1995
In this time when most everyone seems to believe in angels, it's nice to get some hard proof. That is, if you consider music a worthy enough vehicle for such spiritual revelations. After four years, Enya, the Irish New Age singer-songwriter-musician-arranger, has finally released The Memory of Trees, her eagerly awaited album of new material. An imposing talent with a repertoire filled with gentle nuances and subtle turns, Enya is unrivaled, although often imitated. Her formidable vocals and Roma Ryan's highly spiritual lyrics are piloted by Enya's signature Celtic-wall-of-sound arrangements.
A former member of the traditional Irish band Clannad (which includes much of her family), Enya plays numerous instruments. Her ambient work is so intricate, and she is so retiring, that she never tours - making it more impressive that her world-wide record sales, led by New Age touchstones Watermark and Shepherd Moons, exceed 18 million copies.
Based in traditional Irish folk music, Enya's art is timeless and seamless, without boundary or limits. Her exquisite vocals sweep through interwoven overdubs and multi-textured instrumentation warmly gilded in airy strings and synthesized keyboards.
The album's theme reflects the ancient Druid reverence for the woodlands, their source of continuity and earthly knowledge. That's the kind of deep spirituality we're dealing with here. Following that theme, even the impossibly perky "Anywhere Is" discusses "the echo of their story." This Celtic conga juxtaposes a staccato, almost-zany melody line against booming percussion, droning synths and insistent strings. The schizophrenic song structure results in an Abba-esque mix, begetting one of the most addictive pop songs of the year.
Her otherworldly, hypnotic sound in such songs as the mantralike "Pax Deorum" is awash in atmospherics; the song transports the listener to another place. Two other highlights include the dreamy instrumental "Tea-House Moons," a soulful, Far-Eastern pop ballad, and "On My Way Home," an undulating march with rolling keyboards. Three-non-English cuts provide exotic appeal to American ears, like the Gaelic "Athair Ar Neamh;" a lilting track in which one must marvel at Enya's keening voice. Five songs are in English, three are instrumental; all employ various world rhythms.
Without forsaking her winning transcendental formula, The Memory of Trees is Enya's most commercial album to date. And, as in the past, expect these evocative works to be gobbled up as movie, TV, and commercial themes.
Put aside that other superstar's holiday blockbuster album for an hour and sit back, relax and let the dreamy Enya guide you through the stardust. If you're going to be seduced, let it be by a spirit-soother rather than some super-voiced diva who pours out pop-shlock because she can.
Robbie Woliver is a free-lance writer.
Note: Transcribed by Tomás Román.