Enya’s Watermark, 30 years on


It is now 30 years since the release of Enya’s “Watermark”. FACT Magazine has a wonderful article dedicated to this one-of-a-kind release that made Enya into a superstar.

Ryan Alexander Diduck writes:

“Since the ambient avant-pop album Watermark, released thirty years ago, Enya has cultivated a unique, virtually devotional connection with her listeners, even to those she might never have anticipated reaching — those whose moms played her CDs in the kitchen; those who may have caught an impression of Enya’s signature sound in one of eighty-odd film and television soundtracks; those for whom Enya’s soundscapes summoned actual spaces and tangible places, as comfortable and inviting to inhabit as a wooly sweater on a grey day.

Enya needs only one name. And this name conjures a profound and intimate recognition, a rare, nearly religious kind of relationship between artist and audience. Ironically, that emotional response is in large part technological. In addition to the album’s watery, organic themes — ships, shores, rivers, storms, flows — the recordings are dripping wet with layered synthesizers, and voices awash in a maximal, digital aesthetic. Despite the often-derisive designation of New Age or World Beat, Watermark is a mistress-piece of sonic experimentation. And Enya is a reclusive trailblazer for women in electronic music composition.

“The reason people say it’s religious-sounding is the amount of reverb we use,” Enya deadpanned in a 1989 interview in Musician Magazine. It’s only a joke in part. The album emerged at a moment when technical innovation in musical instruments and recording studio techniques reached high tide. 1988 was a milestone year for the global digital instrument industry — growing in value from $2.2 to $3.6 billion US between 1982 and 1987 — and Watermark owes many of its mystical characteristics as much to new musical products made by Yamaha, Roland, and Alesis, as it does to lyricist Roma Ryan, producer Nicky Ryan, or Enya herself.

Read the complete article in FACT Magazine. Highly recommended!

While reading, why not listen to: