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