Cover: The Memory of Trees


Enya serenity: silky as ever

Bruce Westbrook

Houston Chronicle (USA) 17 December 1995

The Memory of Trees -- Enya -- Reprise

You can't escape her. From her movie soundtracks to TV ads to pop radio to VH1 to the background music playing in shops that sell scents and soaps, Enya seems to be taking over the world.

But she is a gentle ruler who's not just a queen but a goddess - a goddess of New Age aural serenity. Now she's back - with more of the same.

And why not? Her Enya, Watermark, and Shepherd Moons albums have combined for sales of more than 17 million copies with much the same sound, and she and the producer Nicky Ryan aren't about to change for The Memory of Trees.

Here, Enya's music remains marked by silky, dreamy etherealness. Performed entirely by her, the songs have lush layers of vocals, fading in and out to buoy her tender, plaintive lead singing. And her instrumentation is largely limited to soaring sythesizers and simple piano work. It's her signature sound, but also her heritage.

Born Eithne Ní Bhraonáin, Enya is a product of the pastoral lands of Ireland's County Donegal. Her moody music stems from ancient Irish traditions, and she often sings in her native Gaelic tongue.

One new example is 'Athair Ar Neamh', which includes such lyrics as "Fada an lá, go sámh."

Elsewhere, 'Pax Deorum' is in hypnotic, chanted Latin, 'La Soñadora' is in resonant Spanish and some vocals are mere soothing sounds - a calm cascade of "ahhhs."

Music, as they say, is the universal language, and here it conveys a peacefulness that's rare on the pop scene.

Yet palatable pop it is, especially this album's debut single, a maddeningly infectious and gently joyful ditty called 'Anywhere Is', in which Enya perceives life as a wondrous, mystical maze.

For her, the song is a veritable rocker, since most of the other tunes are soft, subdued and melancholy, evoking images of verdant swards cloaked in early-morning fog or gently lapping waves beneath a blanket of stars.

An exception is the closing 'On My Way Home', whose bouncy insistency boosts the eloquent simplicity collaborator Roma Ryan's ever-optimistic lyrics about "the good days."

For some, such songs are music to dream by. For others, they may be the sleep-inducing stuff of fluff. But if Enya represents one thing, it is beauty. That extends to her new album's cover photos. Wearing a royal-blue robe, Enya is shown on a golden throne beneath an oval shield, taking a pose akin to a painting by Maxfield Parrish, who also idealized human beauty.

There may be scant room for adventurousness in this stance. Enya is as predictable as she is soothing. But with her special brand of beauty gracing our world of woe, it's difficult to argue that she offers too much of a good thing.

* * * (three stars out of four)

Note:Transcribed by Joel Little.