Although they’ve settled into the Kscope label for a while now, many prog fans haven’t heard of NAO – mainly because it’s not exactly prog, and maybe because they’re currently on hiatus. Scottish group North Atlantic Oscillation skirt the borders of the progressive, or ‘nu-prog’, with whimsical song structures whilst holding a firm stead in electronica influenced rock, hilariously to some prog purists’ dismay.
Their 2012 album Fog Electric takes their poppy driven debut Grappling Hooks and dunks it in an ice bath – from start to finish the album has a crisp, frigid atmosphere from the glistening (often robotic) vocal harmonies; desolate instrumentation and ambiguous lyricism. Frontman Sam Healy’s soft, cooing vocals pulls Fog Electric into a dream pop vibe that’s both aloof and agreeable; retaining their upbeat charm with a sense of developed maturity.
This doesn’t mean NAO have lost their playfulness, however; from the drum-&-bass style ‘Empire Waste’ melting into acoustic gerrymandering to the blue-balling false start of ‘Expert with Altimeter’, there are quite a few songs on the album that tease you with a short riff, then tap you on the shoulder and engulf you in a wave of synth pads before you have a chance to realize what’s happening. ‘The Receiver’ is a little too heavy handed with these progressions, however, as it bats unresolved ideas back and forth that fall between the cracks of a song with huge potential. A minor point – though with an album as solid and polished as Fog Electric, there really isn’t any other weakness to pick at.
North Atlantic Oscillation are due to release their compilation album Lightning Strikes the Library on October 28th, bringing a concise view into the group’s three albums and Healy’s eponymous solo debut Sand; joining the recent release of his 2nd solo album A Sleeper Just Awake earlier last month.