Review Summary: Save this one for a rainy night.
Wikipedia tells me that the North Atlantic oscillation is a phenomenon involving fluctuations of atmospheric pressure at sea level. What this is supposed to tell me about the band North Atlantic Oscillation, I have no idea, but you should know that sh*t because no one f*cks with a guy who can drop some knowledge about obscure meteorological phenomena. Really, listening to the Edinburgh, Scotland-based group's newest effort, Fog Electric
, it's easy to imagine yourself
floating in uncharted icy waters surrounded by thick fog and soothing mist. Most likely, however, you are in the safe confines of a basement or bedroom, and you are attempting, like me, to fully grasp an album that does not lack in ambition and atmosphere, but never quite reaches the heights it certainly aims for.
With Fog Electric
, North Atlantic Oscillation merge the heavy use of airy synthesizers and sampled drums with the swirling, ethereal falsetto of Sam Healy, as well as instrumentation that represents shades of psychedelia and post-rock. The result is a sound that captures the listener's attention from the beginning. Having never heard of or listened to the group heading into this album, the opening track, "Soft Coda", truly excited me. A simple, yet steady Phil Selway-esque drum pattern, effective (see: not cheesy) synths blended with post-rock inspired guitar and Healy's lush vocals set the general tone for the album. NAO do not stray too far from this formula, but the results are not always as satisfying as "Soft Coda". Less rock-oriented, synth-dominant songs like "Chirality" and "The Receiver" are well-structured but offer nothing unique, sounding more or less like something you may hear on Music Choice's New Age channel. Fortunately, besides those two, there's maybe only one other track on Fog Electric
that falls flat.
I'm not very familiar with electronica in general, let alone the specific breed of synthpop/alt-rock/post-rock that North Atlantic Oscillation employs, so it's difficult for me to pinpoint what their influences may be. However, there are moments of Fog Electric
that recall Caribou ("Soft Coda", "Expert with Altimeter"), Porcupine Tree ("Empire Waste", "Downhill"), and it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say that parts of "Mirador" are a little reminiscent of some of Radiohead's weirder forays into electronica. To say that NAO sound like these bands, though, would not be accurate. They are able to take cues from some of their more popular contemporaries while still creating a sound that, while not what I'd call innovative, comes across as fresh and very polished. Fog Electric
is a record that should be listened to as a whole. While there are certainly some stand out tracks, not one song pops out as something drastically different from the others. From "Soft Coda" to the ambience of the instrumental closer "(Theory of Tides)", Fog Electric
operates as a beautiful collage of meticulous craft. While it may not be the most innovative or exciting thing that the genre has to offer, the album's atmosphere and collection of low-keyed pop songs behind a thick cloud of haze make for an enjoyable listen.
Entry in WeepingBanana's Review a Random Album Game
Check out: Soft Coda, Empire Waste, Expert With Altimeter