Album cover: Watermark


Review: Watermark

John Diliberto

Jazziz (USA) Soundscapes Vol. 6, No. 3, April/May 1989

ENYA is the closest thing to a media darling that the new age has had since Andreas Vollenweider. The photogenic Irish singer is seducing everyone who hears her lush vocal overlays on Watermark (Geffen) that sound like a heavenly choir - but they're all Enya, multi-tracking her own voice. "It's very hypnotic doing multi-vocal," claims Enya, sitting in a room at the WEA offices in San Francisco, "because you're singing the same part over and over, and you tend to get into a sort of hypnotic feel."

Enya's Watermark (Geffen) is an enveloping world of sound with sparse arpeggiated synthesizers and her sultry/innocent voice bathed in digital reverbs and reflected back on itself in multi-track refractions. Enya used to be a member of Clannad, the Irish folk rock group made up of her brothers, sisters and uncles, including lead singer Máire. Enya (short for Eithne Ní Bhraonáin) has taken the vocal harmonies that were Clannad's trademark and guided them to the next phase, orchestrating vocal choirs, and melancholic songs.

Watermark, her second solo outing, moves in waves from the Wagnerian choral of 'Cursum Perficio' with ostinato sampled strings and Enya's chanting vocals, to the hook-laden, childlike rhymes of 'Orinoco Flow (Sail Away)'. It's all part of Enya's sound world which draws from Celtic melodies, African rhythms and church spirituals, although Enya will deny any direct influences.

The lyrics, written by Roma Ryan, are only vehicles for mood, and are rendered in Latin and Gaelic as often as English. "We discussed with Rob Dickins [from WEA] whether we should have the translations on the album sleeve," explains Enya, "but they said it would be nice to keep the aura of mystery around the tracks. In general people will conjure up their own emotions to the tracks." With producer Nicky Ryan's sonic architecture, Enya creates harmonies that would please Brian Wilson as much as Abbess Hildegard von Bingen. Her music is like a velvet cocoon that occasionally cries for some outside resonance and friction. The sombre moods, especially on the songs like 'On Your Shore' and 'Exile', can be stifling in their insularity.

Note: Transcribed by Peter Warburton and posted November 10, 1992. His comments: Judging by the other artists featured in the column (e.g. Mark Isham and Philip Glass), Soundscapes is the New Age department of the magazine. Jazziz, published in Gainesville, Florida, is of course a jazz magazine but the editors interpret the category rather widely; New Age, Brazilian music and blues feature regularly in its columns..