Artist: North Atlantic Oscillation
Album: The Third Day
Release Date: 6th October 2014
Label: KScope Records
Formed in 2005, North Atlantic Oscillation are a Scottish trio based out of Edinburgh. The band presumably took their name from the phenomenon by the same name that occurs in the North Atlantic describing the fluctuating levels in sea pressure. Now in their tenth year, the band are set to release their third full-length album, appropriately named The Third Day.
Over their career, they have been praised for their unique brand of electro-psychedelic progressive rock. This upcoming release attempts to push the envelope further than their 2012 effort Fog Electric, although ditching the concept album approach. Despite appearing to be content with their current position, just outside of the rock limelight, it is hard to imagine further recognition in their field would be met with many complaints.
The Third Day is an elaborate show-boating exercise for all intents and purposes, showcasing the band’s song-writing ability. They utilise layers of guitars, synths, drums and vocals assembled in such a tight-knit fashion that there is simply no room for silence, or dead space.
From the beginning to the end, it’s dazzling. Great Plains II enforces a firm and overwhelming presence, building confidently into its pinnacle and fizzling out just as quickly as it came, into the next song. In some ways this is a strength of the record, the way that it makes no bones about the purpose of the song. There’s no over-dressing of the song, yet alternatively there are times that you wish it would last a little longer, but then, all good things must come to an end.
Elsewhere begins to demonstrate the band’s competence in creating intricate and beautiful melodies for songs that are more vocally driven. This idea is further explored in the melancholic A Nice Little Place and later on in the record’s penultimate track Dust. These songs also contrast with the more upbeat tracks, the summery first single off the album August for example. They are downbeat and as stripped-down as a song on this album could be.
Whilst it’s difficult to accuse NAO of being derivative from other acts, their knack of switching from ambience to ‘hummable’ electro indie pop/rock does resemble artists like Pink Floyd and The Flaming Lips. This is not something that would hinder the group, however. They vary their tactics with great effect: Do Something Useful crescendos from electronic ambience into another electro rock gem whilst Pines of Eden drifts over the top of an atmospheric bed. Whatever this record does, it does it tastefully.
Although almost certainly intentional, the vocals are usually very low in the mix, often rendering them inaudible. Which can be a common feature with bands from the land of the thistle, such as The Twilight Sad, or Sucioperro. This hardly seems to matter as the tunes they sing more than detract from this, but perhaps those with more of an eye for lyrical brilliance may be left wanting. In addition, there is such a plethora of effects and synthetic sounds that this may polarize its audience. Listeners with an aversion to sounds that aren’t analogue would find very little for them here.
This record is an ostentatious effort, remarkably showy and yet lacking any noticeable pretension. The album aims high and delivers in unexpected ways, keeping you guessing even after multiple listens. Its greatest strength lies in how effortless it is to enjoy. It has the right amount of variety and familiarity amongst its meticulous arrangement and gorgeous melody. You never quite know where it will take you but the surprise is always a pleasant one.
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