When Enya released her first few albums, her sound was refreshing and new. Deeply rooted in Celtic mysticism -- Enya, after all, has close family ties to the once-trad Irish band Clannad -- the ethereal music brought legions of new listeners to a genre loosely defined as "Celtic" and borrowing strongly from the growing field of new-age ambience.
Unfortunately, Enya's latest album, Amarantine, was only worth the five-year wait for her most devoted fans. Where Enya's earlier music resounded through the listener's imagination, in part because of its unique nature, the songs on Amarantine sound bland and overly familiar. Hasn't she done this all before? Yup, several times. There isn't much new ground broken here.
Drifting still further from her Celtic roots, Enya sings less in Gaelic this time around and more in -- I swear, I'm not making this up -- Loxian. What's Loxian? It's an invented language, devised by Roma Ryan for this album and drawing heavily on Tolkien's Elvish tongue for inspiration. By god, a lot of the lyrics in the liner notes are printed in Elvish (pardon me, Loxian) in a special rune-like font made up primarily of slashes and arrows. Could it be any more twee?
The songs are primarily soft, gentle, almost ambient. They fade easily into the background, which might be good for meditating or, dare I say it, riding on elevators, but doesn't make for strong impressions. It isn't until track 5, "The River Sings," that Enya delivers any oomph in her music. And, damn it all, that's one of the Loxian songs. And that's about all the oomph to be found.
Vocal layering, through which Enya makes of herself a chorus, is once again predominant throughout.
Don't get me wrong, Amarantine isn't a bad album. If you love what Enya has done in the past, then rejoice -- here's more of the same. But after a couple of decades, I was hoping she might try something new. Maybe next time.
by Tom Knapp