Watermark is the second studio album from the Irish musician Enya, released in September 1988 on WEA Records. Following her first album, Enya (1987), produced for the BBC documentary The Celts, Enya signed with WEA, giving her complete artistic freedom on a follow up with no interference from the label. Watermark displays Enya's distinct sound of layered vocals, keyboard sounds, and elements of Celtic music. The album is seen by some as a seminal example of new-age music, though Enya does not consider her music to be of the genre.
Watermark received a largely positive critical response and was an unexpected commercial success, reaching No. 5 in the UK and No. 25 in the US, where it sold over four million copies. Four tracks were released as singles; the first, "Orinoco Flow", was a worldwide success, reaching No. 1 in the UK for three weeks. The album was reissued in 1989 and remastered in 2009 for a release in Japan on Super High Material CD.
In 1987 Enya released her first album, Enya, produced for the soundtrack to the BBC television documentary series The Celts with lyricist Roma Ryan and arranger and producer Nicky Ryan. The album was largely ignored by the public and was a mild commercial success. Rob Dickens, then chairman of Warner Music UK, became a fan of the album, playing it "every night before I went to bed". Following a chance meeting in 1987 at the Irish Recorded Music Association Awards in Dublin, Dickens spoke to the three about his interest in signing Enya to his label. Enya accepted, and was given the green-light to produce a second album with complete artistic freedom without the label's interference. Dickins recalled, "Sometimes you sign an act to make money, and sometimes you sign an act to make music. This was clearly the latter ... I just wanted to be involved with this music." Enya departed from Atlantic Records, her first US distributor, to the WEA-led Geffen Records.
Watermark is formed of eleven tracks, eight of which feature Enya and Roma Ryan as co-writers. The remaining three songs are instrumentals composed by Enya herself. Three additional musicians are featured; Neil Buckley plays the clarinet on "On Your Shore", Chris Hughes plays the rototoms on "River" and African hand drum on "Storms in Africa", and Davy Spillane contributes the low whistle and Uillean pipes on "Exile" and "Na Laetha Geal M'óige". Enya sings in English, Gaelic, her first language, and in Latin. "Orinoco Flow" references Dickins and the album's co-producer Ross Cullum in its lyrics. Enya explained "On Your Shore" is a song about "is about a beach at home and it's really close to me ... It's really beautiful." he album features a variety of keyboards played by Enya, including the Yamaha KX88 Master, Yamaha DX7, Oberheim Matrix, Akai S900, Roland D-50, and Roland Juno-60.
Watermark was recorded from June 1987 to April 1988. It was first recorded in demo form in its entirety at Nicky Ryan's 16-track studio at his home in Dublin. The music displayed Enya's sound of multi-layered vocals, keyboard sounds, and influences of Celtic music. When recording took place at Orinoco Studios in London, two 32-track machines by Mitsubishi were used. The album was mixed at Wessex Sound Studios. During the final stages of recording, Enya tripped on a step which resulted in two cuts to her knee. She continued to work, "taking these heavy pain-killers, sitting at the desk, in the studio with one foot propped up on cushions."
Watermark was first released in September 1988 in the UK; its North American release followed in January 1989. The album was a success on the charts, reaching No. 5 in the UK and No. 25 in the US. By December 1988, Watermark had sold over 20,000 copies in Ireland and 300,000 copies in the UK. Four tracks were released as singles between 1988 and 1991. "Orinoco Flow" was the most successful where it topped the UK singles chart for three weeks, sold over 250,000 copies there, and also went to No. 1 in nine countries.