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


North Sea Radio Orchestra


Prog Folk

4.21 | 91 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Orchestrated, Intelligent Beauty

I love prog. I love folk. Sadly, very few albums actually meld the two successfully. I A MOON is one of those albums. I blundered into this album by random sampling of other PA member's best of 2011 lists. What a pleasant surprise this was!!! North Sea Radio Orchestra melds modern folk ideas a la Espers and folds in classical / medieval styling a la Gryphon and creates a sound that surpasses both of those wonderful bands.

The basic sound here is chamber rock a la Aranis. Tightly composed, classical at heart. Counterpoint, traditional harmony, multi-part arrangements. Yet so many of the bands from the Univers Zero lineage are so oppressively dark that my tolerance time for that music is limited. Similarly, nu-folk bands also stick so strongly to their trippy verge of insanity vibe at times that have to turn away also. I A MOON treads the balance so well. The lighter ethereal mood balances the more left-brain compositional style, lending that extra emotional interest that I also felt was missing from Gryphon. (Instrumentally, that is probably the closest approximation to this album I have).

NSRO also have a sense of hook that fellow Prog Folkies the Decemberists utilize so well. "Heavy Weather" has a central not-quite-chorus section that sticks with you almost like a pop tune while being somewhat sad in character. On the other hand, "Berliner Luft" is played over a simple drum beat that makes the tune almost a little too dance-y for the context of the album, but certainly broadens the sound of the record. "Morpheus Drone" has a slight raga flavor to it.

Sharron Fortnam's voice, to me, is just right for this music. Unlike, say, Renaissance where the voice overpowers everything, Fortnam fills just the right amount of space in this large ensemble. Her voice is fairly pure-toned with just a hint of frailty that is the signature of Meg Baird and more famously, Jewel. But the emotional affectation is kept to a minimum, used tastefully. Bandleader Craig Fortnam's guitar is clearly the instrument on which these tunes were written, but again there is never anything flashy. Just great mood and skilled composition.

While there's not much rock in this album, there is probably more prog here than any other band in this category. I did go back to compare this to the band's previous release. Though the sound is similar, this is clearly the better work. At first I was a little reluctant giving this 5 stars, but I honestly can't think of any music of this sort that eclipses this. That is, this not only may be the best prog folk album I own, but also the best chamber rock. It holds its own even compared to some of the symphonic giants. Given the many amazing works in those categories, that's saying something. I can't imagine any fan of prog not appreciating this.

One of the best of 2011 indeed.

Negoba | 5/5 |


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