North Atlantic Oscillation. There's a mouthfull for you!
A fine new band from Scotland, they are, substantially,
Sam Healy, who sings and plays all manner of instruments
including : guitar, bass, synths and percussion - and
Ben Martin, who plays drums and percussion. Together they
make a mighty big sound. A very exciting sound.
Mr Healy has a high voice and uses it to stunning effect
on these eleven fine tracks. Opening number 'Marrow',
despite lasting little more than two minutes, is an invention
of extraordinary power and majesty. Starting with an almost
angelic vocal, floating over an evocative synth dirge we are
left unprepared for the great sonic explosion which follows.
Mr Martin's drums break in halfway through like thunder as
a prelude to the dark, dense chord pattern which follows.
So many good ideas crammed into such a tiny place.
'Hollywood Has Ended' is a truly beautiful composition.
The melody of the verse reminds me strongly of Procol
Harum's great song 'Homburg' (my Dad used to sing it
around the house in the 60's!). The central section,
however, veers off sharply in another direction entirely.
Pounding percussion and spiralling synth arabesques create
an uplifting wall of uproariously ecstatic sound.
Mr Martin really thumps his skins with gusto again on 'Cell
Count'. A big, big beat and elusively shifting harmonies
create a raucous atmosphere crammed full of elemental energy.
'Alexanderplatz' has a dream-like quality made more vivid
by Mr Healy's well-managed falsetto. The great crashing
chords of the final section are truly stunning!
On the instrumental 'Star Chamber' the rock monster springs
suddenly into being with a gigantic riff worthy of Led Zeppelin.
Nothing is straightforward here however. A shrewd and refined
musical intelligence is never far from the surface. The gently
rolling piano ostinato at its heart adds texture and contrast
without interrupting the inner coherence of the arrangement.
Final track 'Ritual', with its skittering percussion and
blissfully disembodied voices creates a magical sound-world
which, via a ground-shaking crescendo, brings this very fine
album to a memorable and strangely moving conclusion.
'Grappling Hook' is just about as far from the middle
of the road as it is possible for good new music to be.