Floating - Hello birds, hello trees, hello Enya
Q (UK) December 1995
[Picture: Enya on TMOT chair, sitting up, Black and White, top of her head cruelly lopped off by the evil croppers. Caption: Enya: She sounds like nothing on Earth.]
Enya, The Memory of Trees, WEA 0603 12879
'Although it seems almost laughable an idea now, when new age music was invented in the early '80s, it wasn't meant a minority interest existing solely to prolong the careers of defrocked members of both Wishbone Ash and The Climax Blues Band or Rick Wakeman. Surely it was meant to evolve from the relaxing musicality of pioneers like William Ackerman and Michael Hedges into something as brave, lovely and tuneful as Enya.
She's an odd fish, the classically trained Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, the only genuine global star of new age and ambient. She's a woman of seemingly no personality, who lives, in Dublin, so quietly that church mice are a ragga party by comparison, in a menage-a-ethereal with manager Nicky Ryan (who produces The Memory of Trees) and his wife Roma (who writes the lyrics). Enya composes the tunes and plays all the instruments. Somehow they produce music which has sold over 18 million copies, steadily rising to the point where the last album, Shepherd Moons, spent 199 weeks on the American charts, aside from it's quadruple platinum British status.
It's easy to see what Enya is not: she left new age behind years ago, getting the idea that there's no point to that music without melodies to die for; she's far more musical that any of the ambient, trip-hoppy, easy listening younger types and she isn't as cynical as Enigma or those silly Sacred Spirit and Deep Forest people.
What she actually is, is more blurred. The Memory of Trees is, like the next Iron Maiden album, more of the same: layered vocals atop a hillock of lush melodies; a brace of obvious hit singles ('Anywhere Is' and 'Once You Had Gold'); some Gaelic stuff plus some instrumentals, underlaid with many a softly moaning, multi-tracked "aaaah", which could be used on soundtracks or advertisements. That the whole luxuriant mess works, that it sounds like antipop, that it sounds so uplifting, spiritual even, and yet that it will in all likelihood appeal to more people across the world (God knows how the Americans have fallen for all this) than, say, Blur, is a tribute to both Enya's and the Ryans' craftsmanship; perhaps even their genius of sorts. What it all means and why they do it is barely a consideration, for Enya is out there very much alone, floating as only her music can, sounding like nothing else on earth.
Four stars out of five.
Note: Transcribed by Ashley Pomeroy and posted to the Enya Mailing List, December 1, 1995.