Tuesday, 23 March 2010
[REVIEW] North Atlantic Oscillation - Grappling Hooks
When a band is named after a phenomenon in weather patterns you would assume their music would be a lacklustre affair. A name coinciding with a subject people turn to when they have ran out of rubbish small talk. North Atlantic Oscillation are not a boring band, and debut effort Grappling Hooks equates to something extremely far away from boring small talk.
The Edinburgh band’s debut combines Squarepusher inspired electronic soundscapes with other influences weaved throughout. NAO are a band that keeps their influences on their sleeve but shake them off which each new song, with every track featuring a familiar sound, yet also sounding distinctly unique. Opener ‘Marrow’ mashes together an array of synth sweeps with hammering drums and euphoric modulated vocals, colliding to form waves of hypnotising sound. Second track ‘Hollywood Has Ended’ masquerades as an acoustic lament and a stark contrast to the opener, then transforms into a full-blown rock track, with pounding guitars and a Theremin taking the song to space-like levels.
It is fair to say that Grappling Hooks is an extremely ambitious record. Each track is choc full of instruments scrambling and competing to make the biggest impression. With most bands this would end up in a noise filled mess, but North Atlantic Oscillation ultimately end up on the right side of indulgent. Lead single ‘Cell Count’ demonstrates this exceptionally, with hooks found in abundance in the form of pulsating bass lines, tight drums and a repetitive but catchy chorus (‘It’s amazing what you can do’). ‘Cell Count’ is a powerhouse of a song, and vindicates the bands towering ambition. ’77 Hours’ is a throw back to several 80’s theme tunes, with an indie backdrop. It is again brimming with hooks and intent, yet is perhaps one of the album’s more subtle moments.
My one complaint about Grappling Hooks is that it would perhaps benefit from some quieter moments. Some calm in between the storm of sound that we know we should take cover from, yet we are so intrigued by that we bear it’s brunt.
Grappling Hooks is an album that reaches for the sky, and is all the more better for it. Fearless ambition need not always mean failure, and North Atlantic Oscillation demonstrate this emphatically. Far better than talking about the weather.