This Enya article was written by Michael Liggins, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse.
Enya’s recordings have rarely strayed from the gentle sounds established on her 1988 multi-platinum selling album ‘Watermark,’ and her new record doesn’t seek to alter her serene familiarity. Though fronted by Enya, the music released under her name also includes the contribution of Roma Ryan, who provides the lyrics, and Nicky Ryan, whose production technique is responsible for creating the famously distinctive multi-tracked vocals of Enya’s harmonies. Enya has claimed in various interviews that she once layered her vocals up to 500 times for the song ‘Angeles’ taken from third album ‘Shepherd Moons.’
The trio have sold up to 80 million albums worldwide, an impressive feat considering Enya has never toured in a live capacity. Record company executives have even coined the phrase ‘enyanomics’ to describe her ability to sell millions of albums with no promotional tour attached to their success. After taking an extended break from music to spend some time travelling and to purchase a house in the south of France, Enya releases her eighth studio album ‘Dark Sky Island.’
During the promotion of the album Enya was interviewed by fans via Amazon. Asked what music she enjoyed listening to, she replied: “It doesn’t matter what genre the music might be in, if it has a strong melody then I’ll listen to it.” ‘Dark Sky Island’ certainly contains an abundance of melody, such as Enya’s soft humming during album opener ‘The Humming’ or the infectious chorus of Hallelujahs on lead single ‘Echoes In Rain.’
During the opening verse of ‘I Could Never Say Goodbye’ the vocal melody clearly reflects Elvis Presley’s ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’. Whether intentional or not, it highlights the song’s sparse reflective beauty. Also worthy of note is a hint of early European electronica in the Kraftwerk-esque intro to ‘The Forge of Angels’ before the track segues into a cinematic middle section, with firmly plucked strings playing over a marching rhythm.
A subtle variance in the instrumentation for this album arrives on ‘Even In The Shadows’ which features a delicate pulsing rhythm underpinning Enya’s layered vocals, courtesy of Irish rock and jazz musician Eddie Lee on double bass. The album’s title track ‘Dark Sky Island’ takes its subject matter from the Island of Sark. Sitting in the English Channel, Sark was designated Europe’s first Dark Sky Community in 2011, which recognises that the island is sufficiently clear of light pollution, allowing a greater view of an unspoiled night sky. The lyrics evoke imagery of the sea and sky, reoccurring themes inspiring the album. When sung here the words are layered beyond recognition, which doesn’t affect the overall satisfaction of the song however, as Enya’s lyrics have always served to sustain the flow of the sound.
This album also sees the return of Loxian, an artistic language created by lyricist Roma Ryan. Debuting on the 2005 album ‘Amarantine’, Loxian was invented to accentuate certain vowel sounds favoured by Enya. Featured here on ‘The Forge of Angels’ and ‘The Loxian Gates’, the indecipherable lyrics continue a perplexing story of a futuristic race of Celts, called The Loxians as they migrate through the universe.
‘Dark Sky Island’ is a more pop orientated album and consequently somewhat of a comeback after the 2008 Christmas themed ‘And Winter Came’, yet the strength of Enya’s songs and the quality of her past albums has never wavered. Though often unfairly dismissed as new-age, Enya has recently been championed by digital music publication The Quietus and cited as an influence on contemporary recording artists such as Grimes and Nicki Minaj.
‘Dark Sky Island’ also comes at a time when Enya’s signature sound is alluded to in the ambient works of Julia Holter and Julianna Barwick. After eight studio albums, Enya may finally be gaining some well-deserved respect for her unique and uncompromising musical vision.