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CD: Enya – Dark Sky Island | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Enya – Dark Sky Island

CD: Enya – Dark Sky Island

Despite the soft focus, eighth album sticks with laser-like precision to the middle of the road

Enya: inescapable sense of fatigue

Like so much inspirational endeavour, it began in a garden shed. Enya (Eithne Ní Bhraonáin in her native Irish), dissatisfied with her role in Clannad, was experimenting with Nicky Ryan, the band’s manager, and Ryan’s wife Roma, a poet.

Using multi-tracking, a shimmering electronic sound, and melodies that had a similar relationship with Irish folklore as an O’Neill’s pub, they created in the 1980s a style of soft-focus electro-folk so earwormingly catchy that “Orinoco Flow”, on her second, 1988 album Watermark, parked itself at number one for three weeks, and became the song Alan Partridge sings to himself.  

The sheen of Enya’s electronic sound is now not so much evocative of new age, as old age

The composing now happens in a castle, but otherwise artistic vision and personnel remain unchanged. Nearly 30 years after her solo debut, Dark Sky Island is apparently inspired by Roma Ryan’s poetry about the Channel Island Sark, a so-called “dark sky island” – one good for viewing the stars, that is. Unfortunately, with this, Enya’s eighth solo album, she is not so much looking at a new, far-off galaxy, as she is in the mirror, at her last seven albums. Only the title track and “Echoes In Rain”, the first single, have any narrative, and that’s a bit fortune cookie-ish. The rest rely on repetition – one person’s mesmeric is another person’s stultifying – and sound-painting. The sheen of Enya’s electronic sound hasn’t changed at all over the years, and is now not so much evocative of new age, as old age.

Which brings with it, for much of the album, an inescapable sense of fatigue. “Sancta Maria” is just those two words repeated over a bland waft of a tune and some opportunistic key-changes. And what, please, is a “Forge of the Angels”? The airiness of angels and the clanking metalwork of a forge seem mutually exclusive, however you look at it, and the chanting soundtrack (admittedly in Loxian, Roma Ryan's made-up language) casts no light on the matter. Attempts are sometimes made to elevate some of Enya’s earlier albums as innovative, even forward-looking in their generic cross-fertilisation. There’s a case to be made with Watermark, but now, 25 years on, her approach is the same, just less energetic. It’s not that it sets out to be exciting and passionate – like Cheryl or Justin Bieber – and fails annoyingly. The trouble with Dark Sky Island is that it sets out to be a faded copy of earlier work, and succeeds.

The trouble with 'Dark Sky Island' is that it sets out to be a faded copy of earlier work, and succeeds


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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There are always people who want to get others' attention by saying negative words or writing negative reviews. I didn't see anything only crowing in this review.

Dear matthew put this in your mind, Enya will never ever make music according to your tastes honey, she makes the music style she is comfortable with, happy with and for your surprise already sold more than 80millions copies, so if its not broken dont fix it. You should start learn more stuff, maybe follow other career than having your bum most of the day in that "desk".

The trouble with stupid critics, is that they all set out to make the same click-baity, boring, tired, recycled commentary about how Enya supposedly doesn't deviate from her formula, and succeed. "Booo she's actually making the same music with different titles bla bla bla, let me repeat myself, Enya is making the same music again bla bla bla." Anyone who has actually listened to her previous albums will tell you that this album is markedly different from anything she has done in the past. There're several new elements in all aspects - vocalization, instrumentation, production technique, etc. And she has done so while being extraordinarily consistent - a difficult task, considering she is already as polished as she is. In the words of Former Warner UK CEO Rob Dickins, "She's isn't the type of artist who needs development. She is complete as she is." "And what, please, is a “Forge of the Angels”? The airiness of angels and the clanking metalwork of a forge seem mutually exclusive, however you look at it, and the chanting soundtrack casts no light on the matter. " Matthew, you clearly did not bother to check the press releases and interviews that JUST preceded the release of this album before doing a review, did you? Please go back to journalism school.

The trouble with some Enya fans, to judge from you three, is that they weaken their enthusiasm with personal abuse. I suppose you'd have been delighted with some toothless rave review - remember that 'stupid critics' would really prefer to like and support things, and often do.

Sorry bro, you're just doing the false dichotomy fallacy. Just because nobody agrees with Matthew's review, doesn't mean that anybody is interested in toothless, sycophantic reviews. What would be appreciated is a thoughtful, insightful review - which Matthew's review is anything but.

Only one of the comments here makes a point of substance, about the newness of some instrumentation and subject matter. This point is incorrect, however: the Loxian pieces, of which "Forge of Angels" is one, continue a theme from the 2005 album "Amarantine". So it's not new. You say nobody agrees with my review. I question your understanding of "nobody" here. In fact, there are five comments disagreeing with it, four of which are anonymous, so could be by the same person. We only therefore know for certain that two people disagree with my review, then, which out of the thousands of readers we have every day, is a very tiny proportion. Do people who don't agree with you simply not exist?

No, the use of Loxian isn't new. The very title of the 10th track, the Loxian Gates, implies so, Mr. Captain Obvious. And frankly, there's nothing wrong with using the same language, and I don't know why you're picking at it as a "repetitive" element. You might as well say, "Enya sang in English in her last album, and she's singing in English AGAIN on this album. Oh my god she's being soooooooooooo repetitive." There are, however, several other new elements which you conveniently glossed over - including the male choir in I Could Never Say Goodbye, the very prominent bass in Even in the Shadows, the freestyle singing in Dark Sky Island which brings out a very low vocal range from Enya never heard before, just to name a few. My guess is that you didn't even listen to the album and just wrote a bias-fueled tripe. Your website does not allow users with the same IP address to comment more than once in a week without subscribing. Are you trying to claim that the same person is making all the same comments on this page? How pathetic. It's funny that not a single one of the "thousands of readers" you have "everyday" is voicing any support for you or your review. You make a living out of criticizing others, you should be open to criticism yourself. Get over yourself Matthew Wright.

enya has the voice of an angel and her songs work well with her voice and angelic personae, if she doesn't sing filthy rap music, i can see where some critic might give her a bad grade, sorry critics no filthy x rated music in this studio...

You have to respect and marvel at how successful Enya has been. Critics say her music is the same, but that's what's GREAT about it. It's that 'timeless' quality that a lot of music does NOT have. There's many pop and country and whatever genre artists out there that put out their same music year after year and are nowhere NEAR as successful. Her first album is just as fresh as her eighth IMO. And just check out comments on any of her videos to see how people from all walks of life are connected by her music. Young people are responding positively to her new album. You can't say the same about Madonna's Rebel Heart (which I happen to like). I personally cannot wait for this Friday when my preorder is ready to download. Cheers!

Matthew's right, but Enya's fans (myself included) don't mind the fact that she basically keeps repeating herself. No one else is doing anything quite like what she does, so I don't mind hearing what are slightly different versions of Watermark and Shepherd Moons every few years. She did stretch a bit on And Winter Came with the "Time Flies" song, and that was fun, but that's not what I come to Enya's albums for. I like what I've heard so far and am sure I will not be disappointed.

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