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North Sea Radio Orchestra - I A Moon CD (album) cover


North Sea Radio Orchestra


Prog Folk

4.21 | 93 ratings

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4 stars Fantastic! Don't miss this folks

Knocked on my ass once again. Every so often you take a chance on something out of your standard musical habitat and are rewarded. This album was overwhelming to me in the best sense of the word. Magical. Once people hear this album this band is going to be getting a lot of positive reviews here. (Take a listen on Progstreaming if you want to sample the magic immediately).

The North Sea Radio Orchestra (NSRO) is an avant-chamber troupe of musicians led by Craig Fortnam and voiced by his wife Sharron. Using primarily acoustic instruments and influenced by the likes of Tim Smith/Cardiacs, they are a completely unique mixture of chamber music, avant-garde, folk music, and some have noted psych and Kraut although certainly not in any heavy sense. Personally when I listened the references which sprung into my cranium were Joanna Newsom, Vashti Bunyan, Decemberists, and Gatto Marte. I even heard a little Zappa at one point. They cut their teeth early on by playing in churches, not only for the great acoustics, but because they wanted an audience more interesting in listening than drinking/talking. I really sympathize; it drives me nuts that people can't shut up for an hour when live musicians are trying to perform for them.

Their new album 'I a Moon' from the summer of 2011 is a beautiful concoction of the ironic, quirky, playful, and haunting. Piano, synth and organ lay down fragile melodies and atmospheres, over which dance bassoon, cello, violin, clarinet, guitar, and light percussion. The vocals have a childlike and ethereal quality that is a bit mysterious, not unlike Kate (think 'Feel it') or the female lead from Decemberists. There are British folk overtones but the music is highly original and minimalist for the most part. And so beautiful. That was my favorite thing about NSRO. Despite the experimental approach and arrangements, the music never becomes too hip for its own good....this is inherently listenable, soulful, gorgeous music that will stay with you emotionally. It's not just a cerebral exercise.

Opener 'Morpheus Miracle Maker' starts simple and builds to a lush vocal chorus. A short vocal tale and classical guitar interlude follow, leading to the heftiest track, the 8-minute 'Heavy Weather.' This would have sounded perfectly at home on 'The Hazards of Love.' 'Berliner Luft' brings in some beats and aggressive strings for a manic and playful mood. 'Morpheus Drone' has a Celtic feel overcome by sadness. 'The Earth Beneath Our Feet' is the most traditional piece, with a grounding lyric over simple acoustic guitar that would not sound out of place on a Cat Stevens album ("we are the things we want to believe.") Soothing and lovely. 'Ring Moonlets' offers a precision reminiscent of Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists. 'When Things Fall Apart' is simply a perfect blend of the beautiful and the sad, voice, piano and strings. Light and mood, with enough space to take it all in. None of the instrumental passages ever overplay their hand, it's very well measured. And then an amazing instrumental closer called 'Mitte der Welt' which consists of repetitious woodwinds, it felt like viewing an abstract painting. Hard to describe!

4 stars for now and easily one of the best of 2011. Could be 5 stars if it passes the crucial test of holding up over time. We'll see. For now, recommended for everyone!

Finnforest | 4/5 |


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