Without hyperboly I think that this is one of the best albums I have ever heard! Being an ancient old fart the wrong side of 50 I think it would be fair to say that I'm not generally a massive fan of the shoegazing genre, but if you want to get started into that then this is definitly the album for you. Fantastic vocals / lyrics; superlative guitars without being over domineering; demon synth and stunning off beat drumming. Do I have a favourite track? No, that would be like trying to decide which of my two children I love the most (OK, a little hyperboly there). Awesome.
I don't believe any piece of music, literature or film deserves 100%. That implies perfection. And, let's face it, everything could be improved in some way, even if ever so slightly. But, I nearly broke the rule for 'Grappling Hooks'.
Ethereal vocals, luscious harmonies, melodies that embed themselves in your mind like ... um ... grappling hooks? Layer upon layer of sound, bringing a crescendo, swooping and soaring. The harsh electronica dovetails with the rock guitar, bass and drums. Classical piano riffs sit next to waves of synth. It works so well. Only occasionally does the cliched washed-out drum sound irritate - it seems 'forced', especially as the drum production is so good elsewhere.
Out training, I got carried away and just avoided running into a lamp post whilst listening to this. Nearly perfect.
I would put this band on a par with Grandaddy and Mercury Rev, having as they do a more American than European take on what can only be called prog. There are even hints of Beach Boys, Big Star and some Drum 'n' Bass on here along with Nirvanaesque wig outs. Is that eclectic enough for you? And whatever you do, don't think the 30 second snippets you get on Amazon are any guide, some tracks encompass all the above reference points on their own!
This is fantastic....anyone who writes reviews is always trying to think of something to compare it to, so as readers of said review can decide whether it is "their bag" or not. I have spent hours trying to think who this can be compared to, and my thinking is continuing.... it manages to defy categorization and yet whilst it sounds fresh and new (this is their debut album) also sounds like they have been around for years, such is the confidence in the delivery of this set.
The thing which hits you immediately on first listen is the drums.....closing your eyes imagining the drummer conjures up pictures of the muppet "Animal" (in style, I hasten to add, not appearance!). As the other reviwer on here at time of writing says, they hit you like a thunder clap, which just keeps rolling and rolling. Add to this the high pitched voice of the lead singer (rather like JJ72 and Geneva) and guitar work, which would grace any of the great rock guitarists fodder, and you have a sound which is immense.
Looks like the rest of the reviews say a lot of what I want to say. I was lucky enough to see them recently in London and this stuff sounds even better live. Big synth sounds, quirky drum machine grooves and great musicianship especially the bass playing and that poor drummer. He certainly earns his money as on every track he is relentlessly cracking out some odd and interesting beat.
It is hard to say what the music is like, it is just about sub-prog with excellent tunes and Beach Boy-style vocals. Not like anything I've heard. Sounds like a lot of thought has gone into the creation of each track. And if you want rock music they do let rip with the guitars on occasion. I'm playing it loads at the moment and bought another couple of copies for presents. Hard to do 5* until I know the longevity of it but it's pretty well there. Now to separate the first album from the second...
This is the debut album from North Atlantic Oscillation and it is a cracker. The Kscope record label is developing a reputation for signing some very exciting new bands. 'Three Fact Fader' from label mates the Engineers was one of my records of 2009 and there are plenty of parallels here.
Both bands know how to play and songs are built on layers of music, each instrument interfacing with the other intimately and completely. The opening track `Marrow' demonstrates this beautifully as does the hook heavy `Cell Count' with its gorgeous vocal chorus and keyboard motif.
For a duo they generate enormous power, the drumming on `Some Blue Hive' almost blew my socks off and the samples really bring it together. I am desperate to see these guys live.
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.