North Atlantic Oscillation – Grappling Hooks (KScope)

March 31, 2010 by  

This is the debut album from Scottish trio North Atlantic Oscillation. With a name like that you kind of know that you are not going to be listening to an album of power-chords and radio friendly pop music. You may not expect this album to provide prog-rock synths, electro beats and ’60s style harmonies either, but it does. This is an imaginative and bold debut album, and whilst it does not attain the heights it reaches for, it offers plenty of promise.

‘Hollywood Has Ended’ starts off as a mellow, trippy sounding song with dreamy vocals, then suddenly bursts into life and showcases Ben Martin?s furious drumming, a running highlight throughout the album. This ambitious song is representative of the album as a whole. They have set out to create something different to the norm, often shifting the tempo and tone midway through a track, and that is a credit to them. Take ?Ceiling Poem?, it starts with a minimal electro-beat and a ’60s style harmony, which work together really well, then after 90 seconds the drums kick in and it turns into a frantic rock song. The second half of the record begins to get a bit predictable, but that is understandable.

With influences such as The Flaming Lips, Peter Gabriel and a bit of Muse being prevalent, it is a testament to them that they manage to sound original. The album fall shorts however in the vocal department, with a filter being used constantly and often rendering the lyrics incoherent. With such a focus on rhythm there needs to be something else supporting it, be it a strong vocal or endearing lyrics and this is where the band are lacking. The ever-present synths and the imposing drumming are the two constants, but it sometimes feels like they are carrying the tracks. However, If they continue to be as ambitious as they have been on their debut, they will have no problems in progressing their sound and finding their place in the modern day music scene.