Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Sigur Rós - Valtari


There comes a time when you look back on a band's discography and recognize, without much difficulty, that despite wherever you've been in terms of the geographic of music in whatever field of composites or concepts, you know in your heart of hearts that this is a band that will retain a far more heightened case of both respect and appreciation, because of it. Sigur Rós are one of these such bands - their spacious, eerie, and often emotive sound has such a kindling innocence to it, it's hard to decipher whether the experience drawn from their records is of a four-piece icelandic band's music, or something more suited to watching a newborn taking its first steps, or witnessing the sunrise peak from behind the rolling of country hills. It's this outdoor naturism that speaks volumes about the band's past success and continuing interest. They may not be recognized by the wider margin of the global populous - their music lacking in its suitability for the dreary saturday-night telly or over-pretentious car adverts of today (though 'Hoppípolla' has become the sort of unofficial soundtrack to animals caught in slow-mo and flowers in full bloom...and the odd wedding here and there) - but that does not mean their effect can be felt far and wide.

Regarding the music itself, even if the band's more popier radio-friendly sound of 'Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust' was, to some people, a sighful hiccup - lead-singer Jón "Jónsi" Þór Birgisson having the last laugh with his 2010 solo effort which demonstrated with flying colours how catchy but beautiful this mix of baroque pop awe and energy alike, could be - the band have become one of these demi-god level entities that are looked up to yet still remain apprehended and affiliated to the concept of 'human after all'. Anyway, back on topic. Three years, a hiatus, one live album and countless rumors as to the new album's notable sound and direction later, we finally have 'Valtari'...or roller, to save you from engine-searching an icelandic-english translation. For those who were worried - or at the very least, anxious - as to whether the band would continue down the road of more baroque-focused four-minute melodies, fear not. For those who desired a warming passionate return to the cool and crumbling innocence of 'Ágætis Byrjun'...well, that my friends need more than just a one-line conclusion.

Before even receiving a single solitary note of this album, you can tell from the number of track and the lengths of said recordings that this a far contrasted direction from their previous venture. Sigur Rós here delve more into open and - in places - more vulnerable land, expansive ambience and simplistic layerings more favourable than quite possibly, any other of their albums released. The opening track 'Ég anda' - beginning with a frosty exhalation and Jónsi's chamber-filling voice symbolizes a familiar delicate layering we've become accustomed to, But here, the sounds are more open and investigative as if wanting to be discovered as opposed to simply hiding away in some abandoned cottage somewhat timidly, as demonstrated quite charmingly in previous albums. From there on, the track conjures up this glacial fog of strings, bass and distorted sound, removing all candle-lit humbleness of previous, pulling the track out into the radiance of Jónsi's recognizable conscious muttering. But the track feels less focused on a vocal companionship than you'd expect, the song dissipating just-as-gloriously away from the glow of instruments and vocals, ending in this cavernous mumbling of distortion and hidden-in-the-dark piano keys.

'Ekki múkk' the next track, is more direct in its progression, but actually goes about it from the base upwards rather than from the middle as was the case previous. Violins are more audible here, so too is the want and the desire to create this Earthly beauty that could not be replicated in any other fantastical landscape. Jónsi's elevation only adds to the somewhat tense and precious filing of fine details that each key of a piano or strum of bass that passes between the vocals and the timid backdrop alike. There is no real sense of movement so far as actually adding to the mold here, but rather the track feels static and confined to a specific space or point in time and everything around it, while reactive, is just as condensed. To use the word 'slow' would be an easy mistake to make, but regards as to the actual development of the track's structure, there's nothing that would merit a level of fascination or curiosity. In a nutshell, the track is simply 'there' to be admired, but also to be witnessed and then cast aside.

This isn't a bad thing. The idea of shifting a solitary focus from one entity to another - even if the observed in question lacks any form of sentient change to its position - is hinted at all the time in ambient music and even the most minimalist of compositions where it's actually the observer who feels more the subject than the subject matter itself, hence why it works so incredibly well. It's not something I'm critical of here, but the band tend to be focusing more on the tinier portions of a supposed musical land mass than previous albums. So it's thankful then that 'Varúð' steps away from this static post and opens itself up to the wider degree of mountainous venture, Jónsi's impactive calling of the title word ushering in this billowing of orchestration that draws from as far a resource as the highest peaks or the furthest void of existence. Again, the progression of keys and strings feels a lot more delicate and delicate in its tip-toeing manner between the clearing of fog and mist. But the supposed 'chorus' parts (if you want to define it as that) truly open the composition up into a much wider aspect of soulful harmonics of young and sloping deciduous landscapes of old. The closing section, which is encompassed primarily by a rising lead of heartfelt drum hits, only breaks down this self-created four-sided barrier the band have fortified themselves within, while a choir of young voices continues the spacious ascent into open territory.

But even with all these bold and brave new ideas that the band continue to push somewhat softly out into the open plains, at the same time there is a sense that they aren't afraid to return to previous ideas in order to transgress a track. 'Dauðalogn' shares a lot of common patterns with a major bulk of their previous album's longer pieces in that it relies heavily - almost too heavily - on the most simplistic of instrumentation and letting the vocals instead, carry the song through. There's no doubting the intensity and the effect it has on the overall eeriness of the track, but at the same time it doesn't necessarily share the same emotive storytelling as is the case with a respectable bulk of Sigur Rós' song catalogue. Digging deeper at these songs - and looking beyond what in some manner, has become a staple of the band's sound - I can't help but feel a lack of direction regarding the actual storytelling and carriage of expression. It's there, but it doesn't necessarily translate itself beyond just an innocence of character and mood. Much like the second half of this album which is where this slight fault surfaces the most, tracks like 'Varðeldur' fall ill to this mannerism and while the choice of sound can't be faulted, the processes taking place and the methods used to actually carry the track on beyond just a static placement of drone and delicately-layered keys and strings, really falters.

'Fjögur Píanó' then does what the previous tracks couldn't and actually manages to transform a simple lead of piano keys into something far more meaningful and rudimentary for focus. Breaking away from what was this preset of linear drone, and lifeless echo, the playing here feels more passionate and thought over rather than simply executed and quick to be compiled. And even when the latter half is added to by a pool of violins and other-worldly string arrangements, the track doesn't necessarily lose or gain any form of increased intrigue, but it certainly doesn't falter and run the risk of being so lost it becomes indulgent and merely responsive to itself. I can imagine people will grow fond of the former piano lead and the latter's evolving nurture of these additional strings, hence why I see this as becoming one of the stronger tracks on the record, purely out of its context, rather than its content.

Having said that, as I come to what I hope will be a logical and understandable conclusion - now having listened to each of these eight tracks with even greater detail and consideration than each previous ocassion - analyzing this record in order to figure out whether it's good or bad, does indeed answer my previous question (does it live up to the heights of previous records) as a result. The response: well...yes and no. To state this album is lacking would be to suggest the presence of a gap in a sound that tends to fill what gaps present with this unearthly earthly mix of organic and inorganic surreality. But rather than claim something is missing, it's more a case here that something, somewhere, has found itself lost in translation. But that is a very minute point on the grand scale of what is still a remarkable album. It's a wash with blooms of wonderful sound collages and experimental delicacy, you can almost feel them pouring out of the speakers, out into the open space only to continue growing. I don't necessarily get the same goose-bump-like reaction from these tracks as I did on first listen with the likes of 'Myrkur' via 'Von' or 'Untitled 3' from '()', but as a collective - as one amassed formula of action and accompanying reaction - 'Valtari' pulls this off with spectacular and considerate detail. Maybe, like the blooming flower it comes across as, this will grow in time, and maybe then we will come to appreciate the somewhat introverted and shying patterns of sound as something more. But for the time being, it remains a well-executed piece and well-deserved of, at the very least, some T.L.C: Timidly Loving Care.
~Jordan

7.5

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Portico Quartet - Portico Quartet


Portico Quartet, the London four-piece, often describe themselves as reinventing a more Worldy sound for the future - a sort of post-new-avant-garde instrumental montage, if you will. Of course, there's no denying the 'quartet' section of that description - there are four of them after all - but even if the rest of that description is somewhat of a indigestion-inducing mouthful, Portico Quartet still remain interesting in that, in some respect, this self-professed description actually holds true in some areas. Their previous two albums, 'Isla' & 'Knee-Deep In The North Sea' certainly held the strong connotation of experimentalism; influences from jazz and avant-garde musicians creeping into places you wouldn't necessarily see workable. Their third self-titled record, while the sound remains true and honest to this self-created establishment, sees the band continue to use said experimentation alongside the current generation of applied effects and composite mixing of global sounds.

'Window Seat' opens up the album with a similarly blended mix of minimal ambience and orchestration Portico had sought for in their previous two records. But here, the result is something far more withdrawn and compact in comparison. The progression is somewhat barebones, but there are some interesting little twinkles of violins and synths here. Follower 'Ruins', thankfully, is a lot more upbeat and daring in its energetic suburban vibes of hi-hat drums and doodling bass here and there. But almost immediately, the brass ensemble builds up to emerge from out of the borders and into the heart of what is now more a metropolis of a track. The band know not to make the same mistake of relying heavily on just one instrument and the composition does shift in and out of these citadel-like vibes, string instruments keeping momentum in as similar a pace.

There is a case here that there seems to be a wider geographic of sounds and influence on this album. No longer is there this self-made assumption - and probably a correct assumption at that - of a band unfortunately confined to a tiny portion of genres and ideas on how to experiment and illustrate this longing for reaching out. As stated, the band have always hoped for people to see them as conveying old sounds in a new and more contemporary manner. Whether they've favored branching out and, as a result, rejected this philosophy altogether is uncertain. 'Rubidium' shows the band's openness towards intercontinental geography - a mixture of tropic percussion, european strings and retro analog electronics that sound like something straight out of a 70s or 80s resurgence. It's here that the track begins to morph and twist into this rougher and more independent sound, the simple chirping of synths leading this bizarre juxtapose of a calm before the storm, and the storm itself.

'Lacker Boo' in contrast tends to go straight for the intensity of the situation, again there is some immediate change of direction regarding the music's construction and benefitting elements. There's something quite ethereal about the way this track lays itself out - soft brushes of percussion laying atop a backing of orchestration and deep synth beats alike. It's enough to render the track in some form of mellow and withdrawn setting, but again, the fact that the track itself shifts and the way it pushes itself away from one extreme straight to the other, is quite testing from a neutral perspective. It's nothing that's going to captivate or enthrall a listener like you or I, but what it does do is test the very idea that a solitary recording has to lay within the same grounds as it started in. And I'm not talking about the simple nature of progression, but what I'm referring to is, like is shown here on this very album, the notion of twisting and turning to the point that by the end, the track has returned in a majority, to its original form.

Of course, the other issue with this record, both good and bad depending on where your preference lays, is the continuing playing around with different directions in sound. 'Steepless' sees the band take a more trip-hop/downtempo approach, vocals holding that similar jazz-infused rhythmic vibe alongside a testing tread of piano and electronic beats. Surprisingly, the track actually works rather well and while it does, in some respect, shun the band's more instrumental ventures, it still showcases the band's maturity with both organic and synthetic sounds. Here, the softening palette of piano isn't overly consuming, and at the drum machines and sequencers that add to the background give off a precise and rhythmical eeriness to the track.

The penultimate track on this album 'City of Glass' - and the final full-length 3-minutes-plus composition, if you want to go into further detail - has a certain degree of irony regarding its placement on the record, as it feels the more representative of the album's, and indeed the band's, shift in direction here. Balancing between the aesthetic jazz and the contemporary vibes of the percussion playing - bass peaking through the spaces in-between - it sums pretty well the benefits, but also the hinderance as to where this level of free-form transgression can be in music. Again, there is a case of distortion and shift in sound here, and while it does bring about some interesting results regarding how the individual recordings and instruments gel, it also suggests this sense of indecisiveness in the band's line of thinking. That, and even for a song roughly six-and-a-half minutes in length, there are some major sections here - either flowing well, or being pushed and pulled in places - that feel lacking in been given enough time and room to pull off something that may, in another outcome, may have been quite beautiful. Instead, there's a sense that this just a doodle or sketch of something far greater...and nothing more.

But I think that's one of the key issues you're going to face whenever you incorporate such wide, and in places, foreign sounds into something that may to some people come across as too contemporary and modern to work well with others. I don't doubt Portico Quartet's ambition here, and in places it's that same ambition of both looking for something new and capturing the old in similar fashion, that actually manages to work really well. Maybe this will be a record that finds itself tested by an age that it sought to express a sound for, and will ultimately succeed in relating to what we will eventually come to call the past, in ten to twenty years time. Overall though, the crucial point isn't about reflection or relation on this self-titled album. Regardless of what the band have set out to achieve, the element most prudent here is direction. It's up to Portico Quartet whether that very direction in their music, is one of content or one of context, because while this album showcases this widening of instrument choice and shift in focus over which ones take priority, there's no guarantee of whether this mind-set will, in result, be for better, or for worse.
~Jordan

7.2

Friday, 25 May 2012

Novella - Novella EP


The elicit debut EP. It’s the one release that can either catapult you into the music spectrum, or chop you up and send you right back down to earth and the pubs and clubs of thirsty Thursdays. We've had The Pixies 'Come On Pilgrem' and My Bloody Valentine's noisy post-punk masterpiece 'Geek!’ The Replacements - 'Stink', Lush - 'Mad Love', The Beta Band - 'Champion Versions' and more recently, Warpaint - 'Exquisite Corpse'. You never forget your roots, and Novella is positioned firmly in an upright position awaiting the asserted future success with their debut self-titled EP, Novella. 

Novella was recorded by journeyman producer Rory Attwell, on the Lightship95. This happens to be a boat opposite the 02 Arena in the London Docklands area. We hear a different band than what we have heard in the past with the Spacemen 3-esque single 'The Things You Do' in 2011. As said by the band "After releasing our first single in August, we really wanted our next release to be a collection of songs that reflected our different influences and sounds." I’d love to roam through their music library because the influences and sounds coming out of this EP are outrageous. The dream pop harmonies are mixed with shoegaze drones, with post-punk undertones and alternative rock backing the structures up. Not to mention the exciting imagery and delicious psychedelic rhythms of the 60’s. 

'Eat Yourself' opens with a summery sounding vocal hook and banging drums. The sound that was already in place is improved by this astounding structure which borders 60's pop with psychedelic and the distortion pedal. This track has a many thunderous guitar riffs which are extremely heavy with all the beautiful rhythms and left sided solos imaginable. The bass sounds great and the drumming is in the most part energetic and raw. It's expressive and it's sharp, Novella start off with a stunning track here. The most exciting part about this track is the final minute of madness with the slamming of drums, loud bass and electrifying guitar drones which sends shivers down my spine. 

My major criticism of single 'He's My Morning' was the prevenient ending. At just over four minutes, the video cuts short two minutes of genius which this EP does entails. It opens with three profound chords and a great deal of distortion. The track picks up expectedly with a much lighter riff and several dynamic changes which separates the entire track into different segments whilst keeping in tune, and structural. This time around, we hear the two minute instrumental of drumming patterns and psychedelic riffs. 

We've already taken a look at 'Don't Believe Ayn Rand', the treacherous and brilliant track with amazing lyricism and subject matter. Ayn Rand was a Russian-American novelist turned philosopher who fronted the 60's Objectivism movement which saw the rise of rational thinking and reason. Like many great thinkers, she disregarding religion and became a gigantic influence in the Unites States of America for her political/philosophical conceptions. This song well and captures my imagination. The refrain of "Ayn Rand, she's lost control" rings out, with lead singer Hollie Warren delivering the intelligent verses magnificently well. It’s quite a spectacular track and does justice to Novellas previous stated 'influences'. 

'Strange Things' is a dashing lo-fi tune with a brilliant melody and great vocals. Clear drumming stands out with the low-key vocals, its punky and its loud. Strange Things is Novella's best effort at replicating a Slowdive/Lush sound without the need to exaggerate the effects pedal beyond distortion.  The EP is finished off by 'You're Not That Cool'. Dark, ethereal guitar drones set the track alight, with a formidable bass riff with existent percussion which influences the tracks united sound. You may hear a Galaxie 500 type sound and structure, but I can assure you Novella are within their own right, a fantastic original band. The vocal work is outstanding, not just on this track, but the whole EP. Comparisons have been made with fellow girl band Warpaint; I can assure you the actual real-time comparisons are minimal.  

Novella releases their debut EP on the back of several successful live shows, an energetic single and many support slots. They have the intelligence to take them a long way, skill to keep them continuously improving and evolving. They're from the south and their influences are evident in their sound. We can expect bigger and better things in the future, but as for now Novella have revealed to London and the surrounding country their phenomenal sound. Novella is a fresh face with a fresh sound in a market of electronica. I welcome the change.
~Eddie

8.5

Nine Inch Nails - Pretty Hate Machine



During the production of Pretty Hate Machine, Trent Reznor was a janitor by day and rock star by night. By doing the bitch work around a recording studio in order to earn enough to survive, he was granted the opportunity to have complete artist freedom by night. This setup left little time for sleep, but that didn’t deter Trent from producing an album that truly embodies the basic identity of Nine Inch Nails.

This album was a ground-breaking masterpiece. He recorded every instrument and drum sample himself, which was fairly uncommon in that time. Electronics were just starting to break into the music scene with synthesizers and drum machines and Pretty Hate Machine was right on the pulse. By controlling every instrument himself and without a producer while recording, Trent was given the ultimate artistic freedom that many musicians wish for.

Once this album was sold to a record company, Trent re-recorded this album with producers that he idolized, including Mark “Flood” Ellis, whom has worked with the likes of Depeche Mode, Nick Cave, U2, and numerous other good musicians. Pretty Hate Machine was set up for successes and has achieved masterpiece status.

The first single from this album, 'Down In It', charted in the United States, right off the bat. It was associated with both alternative rock, but also dance club music, charting in both genres. This track includes a rock-rap style that does not surface again for the remainder of Nine Inch Nails’ history. While I would consider this rap-rockish, it is not done in a real rappy way, instead it is more like reading poetry during the versus, really nice. The sampling is really catchy along with an even catchier bridge, “I used to be so big and strong, I used to know my right from wrong, I used to never be afraid, I used to be somebody.” The lyrics in this song have really good imagery and I love listening to it!

The second single off this album is also the opening track 'Head Like A Hole'. With a super simple drum background, one can focus on the rebellious lyrics which embody Trent’s desire to be against “the man”, “God money’s not looking for the cure, god money’s not concerned about the sick among the pure, god money let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised.” There is an obvious sense of political hostility within this song, but I think Trent’s singing and attitude is really sexy, especially want he says “God money ill do anything for you, god money just tell me what you want me to, God money nail me up against the wall.” Sounds like he really wants me ;). (Noooo ~Eddie)

Something I Can Never have stands out on this album. It was recorded with quiet piano and industrial machine sounding beats half way through. This has been covered by many musicians, including Flyleaf who released their cover on an album. Instead of being an upbeat, catchy tune, this track is pure emotion. Trent was not overly concerned about singing every note perfectly or impressing his audience, instead he focused on communicating the emotions of missing someone who has left because of his own mistakes. The lyrics in this song are beautiful, “I can still recall the taste of your tears, echoing, your voice just like the ringing in my ears, my favourite dreams of you still wash ashore, scraping through my head till I don’t want to sleep anymore.” The way Trent says the lyrics along with low droning synth sounds below the soft piano melody leaves the listener trapped in a world that Trent has created. This song creates a captivating atmosphere that draws the audience into his story.

The Only Time is a really fun song. Accompanied by funky bass riffs, Trent sings his lyrics super sexily with his gorgeous phrasing of “I’m drunk, but right now I’m so in love with you, and I don’t want to think too much about what we should and shouldn’t do.” This track does an awesome job of breaking up songs that include a lot of hurt feelings and intense emotion.

The closing song, 'Ringfinger' is a work of simplicity, singing of desperation to please an woman who is unimpressed with Trent’s attempts to woo her, “well you’ve got me working so hard baby, working my hands until they bleed, if I was twice the man I could be id still be half of what you need.” I love the biblical references within this song, stating that she just leaves him nailed there, like Jesus on a cross. It adds dimension and accurately portrays his sadness. Poor Trent. This was a good closer to the album and leaves the listener wanting more.

Along with the 2010 re-master and rerelease of Pretty Hate Machine came a new cover song that was included. Nine Inch Nails did a cover of 'Get Down, Make Love' originally done by Queen. While this was obviously recorded at a different time than the rest of the songs because of the major difference in synth sounds, it is fun for listeners to enjoy. The song opens with a man asking a girl about her first time, then a bunch of women start moaning? Haha this is certainly eccentric. With vocal distortion and a funky beat, Trent has recreated the Queen song completely. Instead of being bassy and simple, as Queen had made it, Trent shaped this song into a dirty sounding, heavy, and sexy work of art. While this may not be the cup of tea of many Queen fans, those who enjoy other works by Nine Inch Nails or grungy music are sure to enjoy this. If you want to listen to the Nine Inch Nails’ interpretation of get down make love.

By incorporating simple industrial beats and melodies under each song on Pretty Hate Machine, Trent has been able to convey emotions and create volatile environments within his music that is hard to do with decorated pop music. Pretty Hate Machine is not just a commercial successful album (selling 3x platinum in the US alone) but it is also a work of art. The deep self-expression that Trent achieves allows this album to have the full effect on the listener, which Trent intended.
~Mary

9.5

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Track Review: Novella - He's My Morning


Never has the Music Review Database 'Discovery' tag been more appropriate, than when starring straight into the face of Novella. We've already listened to 'Don't Believe Ayn Rand', the world now knows Novella can cut it.  'He's My Morning' is the second track to surface with an incredible video of surrealism. Not only do the shoegaze influences make another appearance, but I hear gasps of post-punk in this track. Novella clearly has influences from the likes of My Bloody Valentine and Broadcast. Both being the elicit artists that stick out in my mind whilst listening to He's My Morning. The one individual musician would be Belinda Butcher, which lead singer/guitarist Hollie Warren seems to emulate well.


He's My Morning begins with three chords of perfection and anomalous distortion from Hollies’ guitar. Lead guitarist Sophy Hollington adds the rawness and volume as the track picks up and Iain Laws thumping drums of style and sweat grind the tracks to its crack at 1:49, when the bass comes into full action and the long dreary progressions and harmonic vocals take effect. The final third of the track is a noise piece of peculiar instrumentation, taking full advantage of a dynamic sound. The finishing verse is a killer, closing on a dramatic high with the previous four minutes becoming a blur. Novella strikes out. The three chord introduction splits up and becomes a progressive marathon of lyrical jealousy, shoegaze drones and a popular structure. It's loud and it's aggressive with the lead guitar ripping through the left speaker exceptionally well. Their self-titled debut EP will be released through London based record label Italian Beach Babes on the 29th of May. 
~Eddie

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

North Atlantic Oscillation - Fog Electric


If you're like me and were not as fussed to trawl through the catalogue of recent upcoming electro-rock bands when 2010 rolled on through, it's a high probability then that North Atlantic Oscillation - a two-man (turning four-man on live sets) scottish band who are to 'rock' music as most politicians are to the concept of honesty - will mean virtually nothing both in the name-check and sound-check alike. 'Grappling Hooks' may have doddled with synths and opened up the gallows of contemporary british band sounds, but the end result was inevitably doomed to remain affixed to the dingy booze-soaked, sticky-floored concert halls most new bands find themselves limited to. Two years on and the band return with, on the outside, more of the same in the shape of 'Fog Electric'. I use 'outside' to refer to the majority who no doubt will give this a try just so it's one more on the albums listened to list we're all no doubt making close notes of. But it's when you finally nestle into this record, that you find that the concept of 'more of the same' - and thus, more of the same old mediocrity - is as far from the truth as you can get.

Straight from the off, Oscillation have ditched the tradition of studio-littered guitars and drum kits for a sound that here, is much more open and, in some cases, cosmic in its reach. Gone are the unintentional scarcity of being confined or clogged up, and instead, with opener 'Soft Coda' we have a gracious drum sandwiched between a glacier-like heightening of synths and this dreamy flicker of vocals provided to us by vocalist and lead-guitarrist Sam Healy. 'Chiarlity' likewise continues Healy's uplifting, almost charming care-free venture of stratospheric proportions as we're wrapped in an uncanny mixture of monotonous synthesizers, colorful pipe instruments and this delightful symphonic deliverance that chops and changes at erratic phases in the track. And yet, the pacing and the stark contrasting as these sounds chop and change, isn't at all off-putting or distracting. Rather, they all feel equally ambitious and relatable to one another, as if all part of the same component but merely broken up; spaced out and given room to breathe. If this is indeed the case, it's an admirably clever technique to lead us into the finale that fills us with such uplifting electric guitars and shattering drum beats, by the end it almost feels too dreamy to be conscious.

Even when the progression - which even here, can be looked at as more of a build-up than anything else - is at a minimum and isn't entirely at the centre of proceedings, the execution actually works just as well, if not better when approaching the later stages of these compositions. 'Mirador' is the track that breaches the limitations of earth's orbit and takes things directly into the more cosmic surroundings. Lead by a simple shuddering of synths, Healy's harmonic of heavenly ascent and head-high transgression paves the way for a tidal wash of electronic rock that doesn't at all drown out all the tiny sparkles of tone and texture that come poking from out of the glowing of sound being emitted. The idea of second-half executions in song composition isn't in any way a new thing. In the past, I'm often critical of the way some artists and bands see this merely as a do-less - and in some extremes, lazy - way of extending a track's length without adding any contributing elements to their tracks. Here though, Oscillation seem to be hoping - as well as willing - to put in the extra effort to make their tracks shine (rather than sparkle) from out of their linear start-to-finish spectrum. There's a feeling here that there is indeed a sense, a need, for discovery and venturing into a World that isn't bound by geography or compass points. The electronics feel more spacious and daring, while the traditional instrumentation come across more adventurous and bold.

'Interval' despite the connotations to its name, does a tremendous job in raising this snowcap of ambient-like electronics into full view - Healy's voice once more finding itself sailing across this spacious peak of eerie inorganic wonder, like something more in line with a Stars Of The Lid composition. The track soon gets the backbone via a sensibly muttered drum beat to drive the vocals forward rather than merely floating in this void of droned and directionless sound. More and more I find that my attention is being pulled more and more in the direction of the vocals, which is more surprising considering how lack-luster I, and a few others, may have perceived it on their debut. To refer to more contemporary acts within a similar field, it reminds me of the same promising elevation Jonas Bjerre of Mew, often shows.

It's tracks like 'The Receiver' that demonstrate the band's ability to minimize their palette into more gracious amounts of instrumentation. Healy drifts from a starting point of drifting between the airwaves alongside a charming flutter of piano keys, and then soon echoes through the corridors of wailing guitars that amass once more at the final hurdles. Even the decision of using only the piano or only having the vocals in certain areas, actually works remarkably well considering how grand a scale the album has been in previous tracks.

The closer '(Theory Of Tides)', is the band's most daring attempt at a spacious collage of lightly-treading notation and composite sounds, all rolled together in a track that slowly warms up and unravels itself as something far more escaping than the daring heights of mountainous space exploration of previous. In-between this, there are bird-like chirping, gentle murmurs of water-like streaming and this definite aesthetic atmosphere that crumbles away against the backdrop. In one sense, it can be seen as a stand-alone effort in exploring an increased awareness in musical geography, but in other ways, it only illustrates the band's pleasantly-commited attempt to mix the tradition of rock with a more comforting apparel of Boards of Canada-like warmth.

Two years can be either a short or long period of time depending on how vast your length of interest lies in today's music. Not to mention that this is their second album, the only signs beaming across regarding Oscillation's new record, were dire and grim to say the least. It's a shock to the system that you find a band that not only break the tradition of second-album-syndrome, but also surprise you to such an extent, it changes your perception on where the band lies on your interest meter. 'Fog Electric' has done exactly this, and in such a stunning fashion, it does indeed feel surreal that such a thing was pulled off by a band that didn't necessarily feel 'special' or 'important' on debut. Now though, the tide has turned and the opposite is true. Whether intentional or not, North Atlantic Oscillation have brought us from out of this shell of safe - even if a tad experimental and trying in places - british rock and out onto the open plains of wide-angle lens, emotive, symphonic, electronic rock. It's only when you find yourself commenting more on the band's delicacies - more than the fact that, yes, they have vastly improved from previous - you know this stands more as a mark of startling admiration than just a record in its own right. And here, that's exactly the case.
~Jordan

8.3