Four is the magic num­ber for ex­ploratory Ed­in­burgh elec­tro prog pi­o­neers.

Prog - - The Musical Box - CMG

NAO’s fourth al­bum comes four years on from The Third Day. In the in­terim, main­man Sam Healy’s sec­ond solo re­lease as Sand, A Sleeper, Just Awake, proved his grow­ing pro­fi­ciency in ex­per­i­men­tal elec­tronic alt-rock. Grind Show main­tains that up­ward tra­jec­tory. Opener Low Earth Or­bit ex­hibits a greater reliance on synths and ef­fects that un­der­pin the al­bum. Breathy vo­cals are lay­ered and ma­nip­u­lated to an ex­tent we’ve never heard be­fore from NAO, while the mesh­ing of elec­tronic sounds and rock in­stru­men­ta­tion cre­ates pal­pa­ble ten­sion. Noise threat­ens to erupt, but each time we’re pulled back from the brink. Down­river’s in­ex­orable progress and thun­der­ous de­noue­ment is rem­i­nis­cent of Steven Wil­son’s The Raven… and no less emo­tive. Sirens splices heavy post-rock with IDM. Ra­dio­head com­par­isons are un­avoid­able but there is a joy­ous hazy ve­neer over these songs – a sum­mery per­fume that in­tox­i­cates. Se­quoia and Fern­weh are slow-burn­ers, their plead­ing vo­cals scaf­folded by grind­ing or­gan, pi­ano and brass that evokes Robert Wy­att’s mid-70s al­bums. There’s a lot of de­tail to lose your­self in here on this op­u­lent yet in­ti­mate slice of con­tem­po­rary prog.

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