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ARC Music EUCD2471

Celebrating 40 years together, this is Clannad’s 18th album release and their first studio recording of new material since 1998. Its title, ‘nature’, appropriately encapsulates their elemental essence as captured here.

Opening with atmospheric ringing, harmonic sounds prefacing warm, chunky and deeply sustained synthesised keyboard bass sounds, the layering builds; then, those sumptuous, always melodious, harmonies are added. It’s pure and distinctively (detractors be warned!) Clannad; still, after all that time, so instantly and recognisably original – a great achievement in itself and true testament to their sophisticated and polished arrangements.

That choral nature of the Brennan/Duggan clan’s intricate harmonising, Moya Brennan’s winsome voice (whether singing in Gaelic or not) and harping work, the keyboard creativity and, underpinning all, that sonorous, often burbling, bass backdrop are vital elements in those often lush and ethereal soundscapes. Relatively sparing use of drums and conventional percussion in creating their rhythmic content probably also contributes to that originality.

All the material is newly composed by the band, singly or in duo/trio combinations, excepting two trad./arr. pieces. A little is less elementally them. The American and harmonica tinged The Fishing Blues is more conventional in its composition and Noel Duggan’s A Quiet Town rather predictable in its rock feel and course. I accept the variety offered, but personally crave the magically haunting spell of those classic layered compositions amply present here. A world tour is accompanying the release with the original line up recorded here, so if Clannad have a place in your heart...

Kevin T. Ward

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.