NOTE: I came so close to referring to the odd emotion poking through nothingness in the last paragraph as Enya’s ‘shower thoughts’. I’m infuriated by how accurate that analogy is, but too inappropriate for the genre. So, there. There it is.

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In spite of the doom and gloom that a title like Dark Sky Island might portray, it could not be much further from the truth. It is in fact the ideal sounding, ethereal and otherworldly soundtrack to the celestial image of oneself carelessly laying back on a raft, atop a mild, calm, seemingly eternal moonlit ocean, staring at the stars and the ‘Forge of the Angels’ above. What else could one expect from the first album in seven years from Enya?

That near formlessness, with nothing on the horizon is both Dark Sky Island’s charm, and its troubles. On one hand, these forty-two minutes of ambient beauty of synth and outrageous amounts of reverberation are a non-stop trip during which the only rough are subtle waves throughout, but on the converse, so little happens that songs are difficult to differentiate. Those that stand apart are the cosmic variant of traditional Celtic folk opener ‘The Humming…’ and ‘I Could Never Say Goodbye’, which in being the most beautiful fragile sounding ballad in an album constructed of ballads, is a highlight. A moment of pure upset emotion with just woman and her piano and simplistic lyrics to state everything surprisingly bluntly for someone whose head is stuck in the clouds.

However, others sound so empty that they come across as interludes in an album so light and airy, that it is the very last album to ever need any form of breather. It is the case study of musical breathing space. This is especially notable in tracks such as ‘The Loxian Gates’. Sung in Enya’s own gibberish language of ‘Loxian’, its name promises more in concept by stating a location within the titular island (Loxopia, Loxstralia, United Loxian Emirates, or whatever it may be), and sonically descriptive of the landscape and seascape. Yet, it doesn’t deliver any answers – just the continuation of the next-to-nothingness, but even more nonsensical, with breathy synth and vocal tones that are so enjoyably soothing, that one can’t be sure whether they are even meant to care. Assuming that the listener isn’t wrapped up too tightly and comfortably in their thickest duvet.

Where earlier bestsellers such as 2001’s A Day Without Rain were slated for being fragments of unremarkable nothingness, rearranged into a new, disjointed nothing, Dark Sky Island effortlessly and shamelessly, is ‘nothing’ kept in one piece. This might sound like the ultimate insult, but it is everything that this album aims for. Something nice (only Enya really knows what that might be) is happening, with nothing else to care about besides the natural acceptance of ones celestial surroundings, with a rare moment of upset, regret or loneliness passing one’s mind along the way. Far more pleasant and abstract than Enya realising that she forgot to feed the cat before she left.

In this sense, it is perhaps Enya’s most definitive album, albeit not especially exciting or expressive, to date.

3/5

 

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