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Editor’s View: On Enya

To mark the publication of Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures, series editor Del Cowie reflects on the decision to acquire Chilly Gonzales’s irreverent book about Enya and musical taste for the Bibliophonic series.

When I first heard that Montreal-born, Berlin-based maverick pianist Chilly Gonzales had written a book about the enigmatic and mysterious Irish new age artist Enya, I had to admit I was as confused as I was intrigued.

Even If you’re familiar with Gonzales (born Jason Beck) and his curious penchant for tickling the ivories while wearing a bathrobe and slippers, this artistic detour still seemed surprising.

After all, aside from his collaborative work with the likes of Feist, Peaches, Drake, and Daft Punk to name a few, in recent years Gonzales has garnered a lot of attention through his intermittent Pop Music Masterclass online videos that break down hits by everyone from Billie Eilish to The Weeknd from a musical standpoint.

Applying the same lens to Enya may induce a bit of chin-scratching, as in many ways she is the antithesis to the contemporary nature of those artists. Her biggest hit single “Orinoco Flow” was released over thirty years ago, and true to her elusive and reclusive nature she has steadfastly refused to tour or extensively promote her albums while she lives in a 19th century Irish castle.

Yet, Jenn Pelly’s excellent recent Pitchfork essay convincingly argued the Irish singer’s low-key ubiquity and cross-genre influence Enya enjoys among her fellow musical artists in her Enya is Everywhere piece.

Gonzales’ own take is typically idiosyncratic. While he does spend a bunch of time divulging some perceptive and granular insight into Enya’s musical prowess (the use, or lack thereof, of her own voice is particularly enlightening), Gonzales also gradually unravels his own immersion in music and  the evolution of his own musical taste directly tied to the book’s subtitle “a treatise on unguilty pleasures.” Consequently, it often feels like Gonzales is sitting across from you in a coffee shop, engagingly pontificating on the difference between official canon recordings and personal taste. It turns out that Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” was a pivotal recording on a personal level. And this is why after reading it, I was convinced the book needed to be a part of Invisible’s Bibliophonic music book series. So far, the titles in the series have focused on short, sharp takes on Canadian music artists like Montreal darlings The Dears and Vancouver punk pioneers NoMeansNo, and this vital approach will continue to be incorporated into forthcoming titles.

However, as series editor I’m also very interested in publishing perspectives connected to Canadian music that diverge from this approach, and Enya: A Treatise on Unguilty Pleasures is indicative of the fact that going forward, the parameters in the series have officially broadened.

Once I decided on this, bringing Chilly Gonzales’ book into the fold—despite that initial mix of confusion and intrigue—actually made a lot of sense.

Del Cowie is the editor of Invisible Publishing’s Bibliophonic series of music books.

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