Clannad became synonymous with Celtic new age in the late 1980s and '90s. Adding layers of sometimes ethereal, sometimes majestic-sounding synth pads and drum loops to traditional instruments and electric guitars, the band became a signpost for other acts during the Celtic music boom at the end of the last century and the dawn of the new. After winning a Best New Age album Grammy in 1998 for Landmarks, the band took an extended break. They issued a live album in 2011, but NssdÂ·r marks their formal return to studio recording after 15 years away. These 13 tracks -- ten originals, two traditional Gaelic tunes, and a Scottish air -- meld Irish music's heritage with contemporary jazz, electronic new age, and soft pop and rock. While many acoustic instruments adorn these songs -- mandolas, pennywhistles, bodhrans, harps, and acoustic guitars -- so do electric six-strings, fretless basses, synths, and subtle loops adding edges and underscoring the band's mastery of textures to frame its melodies. While NssdÂ·r breaches no new terrain, it will prove a welcome return for Clannad's international legion of fans. ~ Thom Jurek
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