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NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA

Prog Folk • United Kingdom


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North Sea Radio Orchestra picture
North Sea Radio Orchestra biography
Founded in London, UK in 2002

North Sea Radio Orchestra are an experimental chamber group whose sound draws heavily on elements of British folk, orchestral music (both classical and contemporary) and art rock. They are primarily a vehicle for the compositions of Craig Fortnam, with his wife Sharron Fortnam on lead vocals (sometimes accompanied by The North Sea Chorus). They are a primarily acoustic ensemble, featuring strings, woodwind, acoustic guitar, organ, piano and percussion as well as prominent use of analog synths.

Photo: Jon Hamilton

Often cited influences include Benjamin Britten, Vaughn Williams, Tim Smith (of Cardiacs) and the much-loved British children's television composer Vernon Elliot, whose work NSRO have occasionally played during special concerts. They have also been compared to the likes of Frank Zappa, Henry Cow, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Kate Bush and Neu!.

Lyrically, their first two albums consist mainly of settings of texts by pre-modernist English poets such as Yeats, Blake, Tennyson and Chaucer. Their third album, I a moon, differs from their previous releases by featuring lyrics of a more personal and introspective nature written by Craig and Sharron Fortnam.

North Sea Radio Orchestra are a unique and irrepressibly English force in contemporary music and their carefully balanced blend of folk, chamber and psychedelic sounds ought to enchant any open-minded prog fan.

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North Sea Radio OrchestraNorth Sea Radio Orchestra
CD 2006
$10.22
$11.19 (used)
DronneDronne
THEHS 2016
$12.77
$13.99 (used)
I A MoonI A Moon
THEHS 2016
$10.79
Birds by North Sea Radio OrchestraBirds by North Sea Radio Orchestra
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$73.75

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NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA discography


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NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.03 | 11 ratings
North Sea Radio Orchestra
2006
4.06 | 9 ratings
Birds
2008
4.20 | 100 ratings
I A Moon
2011
3.50 | 12 ratings
Dronne
2016
3.68 | 3 ratings
North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves & Annie Barbazza: Folly Bololey
2019

NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.50 | 2 ratings
The Flower
2005
4.00 | 1 ratings
End of Chimes
2007

NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
  North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves & Annie Barbazza: Folly Bololey by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.68 | 3 ratings

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North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves & Annie Barbazza: Folly Bololey
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Crossover Team

4 stars The complete title of this album is 'Folly Bololey: Songs from Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom' and it is by The North Sea Radio Orchestra feat. John Greaves & Annie Barbazza. Greaves was a long-time collaborator of Wyatt and was a founder of the legendary Henry Cow, and here he provides bass guitar and vocals, while singer Annie Barbazza has been making waves since she was discovered in 2012 by Greg Lake and often performs with Greaves. North Sea Radio Orchestra are an experimental chamber group led by Craig Fortnam, and this collaboration is an attempt to pay homage to one of the most important albums of all times, 'Rock Bottom'. It is virtually guaranteed that if you have ever come across Wyatt in one of his many bands then you will have also checked his solo career, and if you have just one album in your collection it is going to be this one. Released in 1974, it was Wyatt's first release since he fell out of a window and was confined to a wheelchair, and he put everything into it. It is a brave band indeed who take an album like that and try to create a new version of it ? for those who may not know Wyatt, to put that into context it would be like re-recording 'Foxtrot' or 'Fragile'.

But this isn't a band, it is a group of eight classical musicians along with a guitarist/bassist widely known for his work in the RIO movement with a female singer who wasn't even born when the original album was released. I must confess that I am working away from home, so don't have access to my collection, so couldn't easily compare this to the original if I wanted but I decided not to search it out online as it doesn't matter if this is true to the original as that actually doesn't matter. Does this stand up in its own right as a collection of music? Well, the answer to that has to be a definite "yes". We have the original album extended with some additional Wyatt tracks, including the one which has always been my personal favourite, 'Shipbuilding". I can't imagine that song being performed by anyone other than Wyatt, yet the combination of strident guitar and Greaves' vocals with superb harmonies by Barbazza rally brings it into a modern age, yet still with passion and emotion of a time gone by. That is the one time where the duo leave the classical musicians to have a break and do it all on their own, and the additional space in the arrangement definitely works for that number, but the rest of the time the use of classically-trained musicians providing strings, woodwind and keyboards adds to the effect.

I am not sure what hardcore Wyatt fans may think of this, but I believe it to be a wonderful interpretation of his most famous work. One that fans of progressive classical music can enjoy on face value, while it should also be sought out by those who know the original. This has had a limited release on both CD and vinyl so seek it out while you still can.

  North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves & Annie Barbazza: Folly Bololey by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.68 | 3 ratings

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North Sea Radio Orchestra, John Greaves & Annie Barbazza: Folly Bololey
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by kurtrongey

3 stars The original Rock Bottom kind of defines the "personal statement" solo album. In 1974, in the wake of a difficult recuperation from a crippling mishap, Robert Wyatt crafted a series of big-brushstroke recording studio constructions that seem to fade in and out of consciousness, with lyrics ranging from grown-up conflict to Carroll-esque and almost sub-nursery wordplay. Its atmosphere is singular and impossible to emulate. North Sea Radio Orchestra has re- recorded Rock Bottom with expanded acoustic instrumentation. The loose matter-of-factness of the original is polished and recast in an English pastoral garb that doesn't really work for me. It's okay, just try to get the original out of your mind first. High point is actually the bonus track cover of "Maryan".
 Dronne by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.50 | 12 ratings

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Dronne
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by kenethlevine
Special Collaborator Prog-Folk Team

3 stars It took 5 years for NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA to bring forth a follow up to their brilliant "I a Moon". They continue to explore a mix of sophisticated folk and highbrow Kraut influenced instrumentals. Here the scales are tipped more to the latter. In one track, "The British Road", they manage to combine the two rather elegantly. Of the acoustic oriented songs, "Alsace Lorraine" is the most charming. The title cut reminds me of the sort of music that would accompany guided meditations, with floating and mesmerizing synthesizers and little or none of the rhythms that accompanied prior exercises. "Dinosaurus Rex" closes the album in two parts, and, while it is all instrumental, it does blend the organic and electronic again, and offers some bewitching moments.

"Dronne" seems to lacks the trepidation of its predecessor in combining seemingly disparate influences, and the elation of succeeding beyond all expectations. I have the sense that the band has found its comfort level here, which makes for a pleasant but buzz free listen. Mildly recommended, but start with "I a Moon".

 I A Moon by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.20 | 100 ratings

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I A Moon
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

5 stars North Sea Radio Orchestra's fourth album finds their chamber folk approach polished to perfection. At this stage the group's music now occupies a perfect midway point between chamber folk and chamber classical, with interventions from synthesisers and twinkling bells adding an eccentric, experimental twist to proceedings. Ending up in a unique musical territory in a zone between folk, classical and prog that nobody suspected existed, I a Moon stakes out North Sea Radio Orchestra to be a truly original musical act - though prog fans may come to it via the Cardiacs connection, they sound like nothing else other than themselves, occupants of a strange satellite newly discovered in the musical cosmos.
 North Sea Radio Orchestra by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.03 | 11 ratings

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North Sea Radio Orchestra
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars An intricate chamber folk affair from this aquatic unit. Though part of the extended musical family around the Cardiacs, the musical style is rather different (despite the name there's no hint of "The Seaside", for instance), the emphasis is instead on producing beautiful progressive folk music with lyrics taken from classic poetry. With the "chamber" in question truly packed with performers, and a particular knack for working in interesting vocal performances, it's a very atmospheric album with a unique atmosphere of its own. Nowhere near as stale or stuffy as traditional folk, whilst not out to be weird for the sake of weird, the North Sea Radio Orchestra is simply an expression of the personality of its creators and a truly unique aesthetic offering.
 Dronne by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2016
3.50 | 12 ratings

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Dronne
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by Lewian

4 stars The North Sea Radio Orchestra do their thing once more, and once more it works out very well. This is very pleasant and enjoyable progressive chamber folk, exactly what this band or rather miniature orchestra is known for. There are no drums, it's all too gentle for that. About half of the songs are instrumental, the other half mostly sung by Sharron Fortnam angelic clear folk voice often supported by her husband Craig (the line-up given above only attributes all vocals to Sharron, but that's not true). I had five-starred their previous offering "I a moon" but will not go quite as high for this one; basically the NSRO further fills the space that they have opened for themselves with further beautiful music. One can't accuse them of too much development, but then perhaps you don't want one of your favourite bands to develop if there is nobody else to fill the space if they leave it. Once more we have Craig Fortnam's obligatory solo guitar piece, the odd catchy folk tune, once more, perhaps a bit stronger than on previous albums, tasteful chamber pieces with strong almost classical arrangements. Actually, going more deeply into this album, one can also find some new elements, atmospheric minimal music in Dronne, and a nod to Robert Wyatt's "flowing" style in The British Road. The two parts of the instrumental Dinosaurus Rex at the end together make perhaps their most "proggy" composition yet, mainly because of the extended time and that they give their ideas here to develop, with some more turns than usual. So no, I can't say that the Radio Orchestra stands still, all is alive and well. Still, if their previous albums were for you, this one is, too, and if they were not, this won't be either. I guess one could shuffle all four of their albums and could think that this was all conceived together. A solid four stars.
 I A Moon by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.20 | 100 ratings

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I A Moon
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by Lewian

5 stars Now is this the best album of the North Sea Radio Orchestra? Yes it is. And will I give it five stars? Yes, I will. At first listen it sounded like more of the same for me and actually that's kind of what it is. More pleasant melodic instrumentals, more melancholic beautiful songs beautifully sung by the wonderful Sharron Fortnam, more sophisticated chamber music influenced compositions and arrangements, more intriguing acoustic guitar, more elegant choir parts, more tasteful mix of optimistic and pessimistic, fast and slow, strong and vulnerable. All these featured already on their first two albums, so what makes "I a moon" so special? It's hard to tell. It's just magic. I have just found out over the last few months over which I own this album, it made me want to hear it again and again. Almost every song has something that sticks with me and that touches me on a deep emotional level. Morpheus Miracle Maker and The Earth Beneath My Feet just have so lovely melodies, Berliner Luft is so light and moving, it makes me smile each time, Mitte der Welt is like coming into the warm nice home in a cold winter night. Every single note in When Things Fall Apart seems to be at exactly the right place... I could go on... love it.
 Birds by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.06 | 9 ratings

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Birds
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by Lewian

4 stars The North Sea Radio Orchestra shows some consistency here; I could more or less take my review of their first (self titled) album and copy it in here. The mix of styles is again the same, there are some folk songs sung by the delightful voice of Sharron Fortnam (The Angel, A Poison Tree), some classical and chamber music influences, some crafty choir arrangements, some well woven instrumental parts, another quite classical solo guitar miniature, hardly any drums. Some songs are very guitar oriented, some are carried through by the piano, and in some the strings and choir take the show, Personal Hodie is even an orchestral piece. Also harmonically there are some complexities to be found; although all is well listenable there are some remarkable changes and turns to be found. The last song Golden Cage is a bit of an outlier as a more easy going pop song with some more beat, sung as a duet by Sharron and Craig, although it still has strong folk elements and it is certainly not an outlier in that it is as beautiful and pleasant as the rest of the album. Now Welcom Somer has the most ideas packed into it; Copt Gilders is a very uplifting and dynamic instrumental, these are my highlights.

The first album was first, so this is just not quite as original as the first one, it's a second offering of the same kind; however, if I had heard both of them without knowing which came first, I'd say they are on a par, if Birds is not even the better one. I think regarding compositions arrangements and musicianship both are on the same level, but the production of Birds is more transparent and professional. OK, you can't exactly accuse them of too much development, but after the first one I was very happy to get another fix of this kind of music. (Don't expect revolutions on their third album either.)

In any case it is as much of a pleasure to hear this one from beginning to end as its predecessor, and so I give it the same rating.

 North Sea Radio Orchestra by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2006
4.03 | 11 ratings

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North Sea Radio Orchestra
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by Lewian

4 stars This album is a beauty! The music here is located between folk and chamber music with some textures evoking Mike Oldfield and some even Steve Reich (although different from Reich most songs are short and the band never takes too long to leave any particular place), and a dip of the Penguin Cafe Orchestra. Most songs are carried by light but often densely woven motifs, sometimes by the piano, sometimes by the guitar, often later enriched by clarinet/oboe/bassoon and violin/cello. Some are instrumental, some have choir parts, some are led by Sharron Fortnams angel-like folk voice. "Every Day Hath its Night", "Joy for my Heart" and "He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven" are fairly straight folk songs, whereas elsewhere tracks are carried by crafty instrumental arrangements elaborating rich melodic material ("Kingstanding"), and again elsewhere ("Mimnermus in Church") polyphonic choir arrangements govern. Sometimes these elements are all mixed ("He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes"). Some songs and parts are fairly minimalist and simple, but most are well worked out with the odd unexpected turn, some development, and particularly much elaboration of the tunes and harmonies. The mood is somewhere between joy, relaxedness and at times cloudy weather in the countryside (the whole album is the total opposite of "urban"); it never gets really dark. There are some personal connections to the Cardiacs, but the connection is rather in quality than in style.

Depending on what kind of melody speaks to you, you'll find some truly magic moments here. You'd be hard pressed to call this "rock" though. It's a very consistent and enjoyable album of beautiful rather soft but quite unique music. A solid four stars (that's exactly how everyone scored this album up to now, so how subjective is taste actually?).

 I A Moon by NORTH SEA RADIO ORCHESTRA album cover Studio Album, 2011
4.20 | 100 ratings

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I A Moon
North Sea Radio Orchestra Prog Folk

Review by schizoidman

4 stars Although North Sea Radio Orchestra is in the Prog Folk sub-genre to me they are an archetypal Chamber Prog band. While this album as a whole is not a 5 star (Essential) work it most certainly does contain 5 star material in certain individual songs.

5 stars Material:

"Morpheus Miracle Maker" - What a beautifully written, played and sung piece of music. To my ears this is an evergreen. A true timeless classic.

"Mitt der Welt" - Exquisitely written and arranged instrumental.

"Morpheus Drone" - A strong Celtic influenced instrumental. Minimal instrumentation but maximum realization of the songs greatness.

"Ring Moonlets" - What a lovely tune. A simple song but simplicity can often be a great thing.

Now, to the 4 stars or less Material:

"Guitar Miniature #3" is a very nice piece but it's no "Mood for a Day". 4 stars

"I a moon"....doesn't work for me. 3 stars

"Heavy Weather" is a very interesting piece that almost made the 5 stars but the melodies are not quite strong enough. 4 stars

"Berliner Luft" ....same as "Heavy Weather". 4 stars

"The Earth Beneath Our Feet".... same as "Heavy Weather". 4 stars

"When Things Fall Apart"....same as "Heavy Weather". 4 stars

All of the above is, of course, strictly In My Opinion. So, to conclude, the album gets 4 strong stars and it contains quite a bit of 5 star material.

Thanks to the hemulen for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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