Clannad Can Still Bring the Magic

ARC Music 2471

Stick around long enough and the old becomes new. One can debate whether or not the Donegal-based quintet Clannad invented ambient Celtic music, but there’s little disputing that very few have done it better. By now we know the formula: start with a good story, preferably one filled with some tragedy and/or mystery. Add Moya Brennan’s singular voice, one whose inflections at once suggests pathos, joy, timelessness, and now. Soak the instruments in California-style New Age smoothness and add some mist-evoking harmonies. Maybe toss in a soupçon of spirituality. Repeat. But here’s the rub–it always works. There’s no such thing as a bad Clannad album. Friends show up at when one is playing and make jokes about whether you intend to open a fern bar; they leave with a sticky note of the album’s name and when you stop by their home a week later, guess what’s playing in the background? Clannad remains the calm in a world gone crazy. Nádúr is Irish for “nature” and you could label this one musical transcendentalism. From the opening “Vellum” to the closing “Cití na gCummann” we are taken on a meditative journey. Along the way we have a few departures, including “Tura Dhómhsa chon na Galldachd,” an a capella delight with a work song tempo evocative of “Dulaman,” one of Clannad’s most-requested songs. “A Song in Your Heart” is Brennan, her voice, and harp with drums thundering in the background in ways one associates with Loreena McKennitt, one of many musicians Clannad has influenced. What’s new on this album? The fresh sound of what’s old. It’s the band’s first with entirely new material since 1998, and the first to feature the original 1970 lineup since 1989. Any dust settling in? A little, but the gentle breeze they generate quickly makes you forget. -Rob Weir

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