More than 25 years after its initial release, Enya’s Watermark has proven itself as a timeless classic. I believe Enya when she says she was surprised by the album’s immediate success. Yet its amazing qualities is impossible not to be affected by, and it made Enya into platinum selling artist. Join me in this presentation of Enya’s first masterwork, which also one of our genre’s bestselling albums with over 11 million copies sold.
After having left the family band Clanad in 1982 together with Nicky Ryan, Enya made music for the BBC TV series The Celts. When listening to this album today it is easy to imagine that they both sensed that they were on to something; a unique, ethereal sound, based on recorded layers of Enya’s voice-layering with a synth backing – best heard on the songs The Celts theme and Boadicea. The Celts though had no immediate success, so both Enya and Nicky realized that they would need another kind of material in order to once launch her solo career.
New Age Music, Enya style
Watermark is where we for the first time got to hear Enya’s take on New Age music. The title tracks carefully opens the album, and the beautiful and contemplative piano melody is impossible not to like. But it is not to last: Cursum Percifio is a powerful ballad, not unlike Boadicea on The Celts. Already on this point we can say something vital about Enya’s style: variation is magic. It’s both high & low, fast & slow, while Enya’s layered vocal remains a guiding light. The next few tracks follow the same pattern; the amazing Storms in Africa (fast) and Excile (slow).
Orinoco Flow; the most successful fusion between New Age music and pop of all times
Watermark is one of those albums where the hit songs are more famous than the albums itself. I have already mentioned Storms in Africa. Another mega hit is (of course) Orinoco Flow. It is without a doubt the best example of a successful fusion between New Age music and pop. Its melody, catchy lyrics and rhythm creates an atmosphere that make “Sail away!” seems like a great plan. Just by closing your eyes you can see the white sails, blue ocean and get the feeling of a never ending holiday. The synths on this song still sound fresh and powerful, 25 years after. The reverb used, and Enya’s voice-layering, give the analogue synth a thick, almost impossible rich sound.
Talking of synths; one of my personal favorites on this album is the instrumental River. Notice how well the song’s build-up is. The song is created by the synth’s reverb itself – while a far-away synth cuts in, and almost become the melody itself. Synths used here are Roland’s D50 and Juno 60.
In short; Watermark is in every way a perfect album. Its success is a statement of its timeless qualities and groundbreaking style. Many have tried to copy Enya’s style, but no one has come even close to Watermark or later albums by this one-of-a-kind artist. If you haven’t played it for a long time, give Watermark a chance today!
Score: 100/100 – See how I rate music here
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