North Atlantic Oscillation – Grind Show

7 11 2018

Grind Show 1Grind Show is the 4th album from Edinburgh band North Atlantic Oscillation and the first new release from Sam Healy since the 2nd Sand album A Sleeper, Just Awake from 2016.

Grind Show builds on the mood of the Sand album, whilst retaining the dark, post-progressive urgency of previous North Atlantic Oscillation releases.

Low Earth Orbit is a well-chosen opener, with its shifting soundscape – from tightly sequenced synths to more guitar heavy breaks. It sets the scene for an album that evolves throughout its journey.

Weedkiller is an early highlight. A mournful piano line sits atop a beautifully textured electronic backing before the trademark NAO drums and post-punk guitar riffs kick in. Being NAO, the songs dramatically shift and the music instantly drops off to take you in a different direction as the song plays out.

Needles has a fairytale, almost twisted Disney quality to the arrangement. I love the use of effects, almost played as an instrument on this track, twisting and blending the electronica. Needles is topped off by a fine, raspy vocal from Healy and I am sure it will become a fan favourite when the album is released in mid-November.

Around the album mid-point, Sirens is NAO at their most direct. Buzz-saw guitars to the fore, with harmony vocals sitting uncomfortably in the mix, before giving way to an electronic middle section. In complete contrast is another of the album’s key tracks, the mammoth Hymn. With its psychedelic fairground from hell waltz backing, I could imagine Hymn being used in a film soundtrack, and its one of those rare songs that reveals different elements after repeated listens.

“Someone calls and I answer”

Downriver is currently my favourite track on Grind Show. The stripped back arrangement, with heavily reverb drenched piano, really allow the song to breathe and find its own shape and convey the melancholy. The song also contains some of Healy’s most emotional vocals. I love the way the melody mutates over the held chord strings.  I don’t think I will ever tire of hearing this beautiful track. Fill your boots with this one, sigur ros fans.

NAO

The album heads to its conclusion with its final songs. Sequoia is a brass driven piece and unlike anything else in the NAO catalogue. Fernweh (apparently meaning longing for far-off places) is appropriately the albums longest track, clocking in at just under 8 minutes. The song is a definite slow-burner, with looped trumpet and discordant, abrasive landscapes underpinning the emotive vocals. Fernweh shifts gears half way through, and at this point I am reminded a little of some of the early 1980’s sonically adventurous releases of Peter Gabriel (Games Without Frontiers / The Rhythm of the Heat in particular). The percussion work in the second movement of Fernweh is top drawer.

I have been living with Grind Show for around three weeks now, and I find that it really does work as a whole-album experience. Whilst songs such as Fernweh, Downriver and Needles work well as stand-alone songs, the album has been sequenced so well that it deserves your full attention.

Buy Grind Show on Amazon (download)

Buy the Grind Show CD / download directly from the band

Other North Atlantic Oscillation releases

Grappling Hooks

Fog Electric

The Third Day

Lightning Strikes the Library (2016, compilation)


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