Album Reviews

North Atlantic Oscillation – Grappling Hooks

(KScope) UK release date: 22 March 2010

Sometimes a band name alone is enough to draw you in with its suggestive powers. North Atlantic Oscillation is one such name, even more so given its definition as a ‘climatic phenomenon’.

As well as a series of pressures between Iceland and the Azores, quite literally blowing hot and cold, it represents the music of an ambitious Scottish trio. Common sense suggests they might be close in sound to British Sea Power, but reality proves otherwise.

In a show of confidence in their own music, and a tale of sheer ballsiness, they recorded the album themselves before cold calling record companies with it. Not surprisingly, Kscope – whose own mantra is ‘post progressive sounds’ – bit hardest, and were duly rewarded.

This isn’t music done by halves, being a lofty, far reaching combination of Brian Wilson-influenced vocals, raking guitars and, perhaps surprisingly, beats and bass lines that often turn to electro for inspiration. Couple this with a penchant for moving to unusual harmonic places, and you have a band whose moves should be closely followed, especially as they tend to end up somewhere unexpected.

With some acts this might all be a bit contrived, an attempt to sound different at all costs. But with the Edinburgh-based trio exploration comes naturally, drawn through the acts who inspire them – Squarepusher, Tom Waits and Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

Cue the clattering drums that see out Cell Count or bring in 77 Hours, the euphoric reach-for-the-sky pose of the all too brief opener Marrow, or the stately Drawing Maps From Memory, sparkling with its Jeff Lynne-type vocal harmonies. On the other hand we have the rather moving, post-party vibe of Hollywood Has Ended, which starts as a comedown song but suddenly breaks cover, rushing forward in fifth gear in a thrilling blur.

Not just an oscillation, then – more a seismic movement. North Atlantic Oscillation should be applauded for their vision, and for the way they reference their favourite music without ever sounding derivative. Some of the structures are a little ragged for now, but this is an exciting band whose star should continue to rise, whatever the weather conditions.

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More on North Atlantic Oscillation
North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric
North Atlantic Oscillation – Grappling Hooks