North Atlantic Oscillation – Fog Electric

Like Lanterns On The LakeNorth Atlantic Oscillation seem to have a name that conjures an image very close to what they sound like. This Edinburgh duo reflect the scope and power of the sea and highland weather in their expansive yet driving sound. The ten tracks of this album hold together acoustic lilting, huge beats and electronic warbles. No one is more important than another but they all nestle together on the disc, giving Fog Electric a soundtrack feel. The dynamics shift and change taking the listener a, somewhat bleak, journey. The cover art of grey sky and a rusting industrial ship sets the emotional tone project throughout whether the beat is driving or nonexistent.

The more you read about North Atlantic Oscillation the more you find the word ‘prog’ being bandied around, and I can see where people are coming from when they think this, but to me adding textures and connecting track just show more appreciation of an album as a full and rounded continuity, not just 10 tracks on a disc, or more commonly now, on a playlist. However, when it comes to influences I hear less prog and more post-rock, there’s elements of Mogwai, 90’s shoegaze and but with soft and sultry vocals. The sound of this album is surely in no small part down to the production of Tony Doogan (Mogwai, Super Furry Animals, Teenage Fanclub); the whole album is slick and yet carries the distortion and expanse on its shoulders well.

What gets me is how on earth can this be produced by a duo? Of course in a studio anything is possible and multi-instrumentalist singer/songwriters can get on a make merry, but a duo that sounds like a full 4/5-piece band somehow irks me. It doesn’t feel like Massive Attack who have a two-headed creative core that recruits other brilliant musicians to play parts they can’t in the studio or live; it feels just like a band, and I can imagine the music would sound good live, but you’re going to get two blokes standing at the front with a bunch of musicians in the background do the real work – this is dense music where every instrument and the crucial keys/synth parts all are needed and two men just can do all of it live.

That aside it is a good album but two explain the pattern of the album itself I have to return to the soundtracking idea. Though the songs flow together in a clearly intentional way the narrative without the missing film isn’t quite clear. The music is good, but why is one ambient section following a load rock passage? Why have we dropped down to an acoustic section here?

Imagine an album that sounds like both Low and Sigur Ros, if it was made by an electronic producer. The elements are all there and a close to being brilliant but there is something lacking; conviction? Delivery? I don’t know, but maybe its that it just all seems a bit like album filler.

 

 

Released on 30th April 2012 by Kscope