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Monday, June 13, 2011

North Atlantic Oscillation

Grappling Hooks (Kscope/Snapper Music)

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At first, you refuse to believe the lush soundscapes created by Scotland's North Atlantic Oscillation are the work of only two musicians. "This sounds more like five or six," you proclaim incredulously. But the band's U.S. debut, Grappling Hooks—a sonic treat that melds classic rock with digital sequencing and laptop technology—comes courtesy of just two musicians, with both doubling as programmers and sound manipulators. The result is an alternately chilly and warm album that will absorb you.

That clash of hot and cold is reflected in the duo's name, as the oscillation refers to the climatic phenomenon caused by fluctuations in the atmospheric pressure between Iceland and the Azores. Often hailed as a post-progressive outfit, Ben Martin and Sam Healy invoke layer upon layer of dreamy Beach Boys harmonies on "Marrow" and then bring the Alan Parsons Project into the 21st century with "Hollywood Has Ended." Elsewhere, the sweeping pastoral arrangements of "Ceiling Poem" and "Ritual" counter the raucous riffs of instrumental "Star Chamber" and the chaos of "77 Hours." 


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