North Sea Radio Orchestra – I a moon (The Household Mark)

North Sea Radio Orchestra – I a moon (The Household Mark)

What a fantastic album this is, from Craig Fortnam and friends, with a strong core of English folk music and traces of (post) classical, medieval, electronica and even Krautrock in the supporting cast. Opener Morpheus miracle maker has great swooping strings and a vocal reminiscient of Kate Bush (Hounds of love era) from Sharon Fortnam (there’s even room for a Micheál Ó Súilleabháin style piano + glockenspiel trill). The title track is short, sweet, strange, driven by glockenspiel, laptop and harmonium and reminds me a bit of Montreal math poppers Oen Sujet. Heavy weather starts as a piano waltz sea-shanty but spreads its wings into string and oboe interludes and male-female counterpoint vocals, before a rousing, massed-band, chamber pop finish. Arguably the highpoint of the album, the instrumental Berliner luft carries off a motorik Neu groove on acoustic guitar alongside a bubbling Moog, with a memorable mid-section stand-off between opposing string and reed choruses. It’s irresistible dance music, in the way that Michael Nyman’s Greenaway soundtracks are. The second half of the album has more of a pastoral feel to it, including the gorgeous medieval-style ballad The earth beneath our feet. The pulsing Moogs and frantic glockenspiels and guitars of Ring moonlets are another highlight. A work of restless genius, full of compelling, surprising and insanely catchy arrangements. This is pop music of the top drawer variety.

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