North Atlantic Oscillation

Grappling Hooks

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Old-school artsy rock was never a prime influence for the indie crowd, but North Atlantic Oscillation make a clever use of the more sophisticated styles of the '70s, drawing on their complexity while never losing the hazy vibe of modern indie pop. The music is propelled by Krautrock-based rhythms, which are pretty complex compared to, say, Maserati, but retain just the right amount of straightforwardness to keep the songs from getting lost in a sea of textures, which, on Grappling Hooks, is really compatible to the Atlantic. Guitars, vintage background synths, modern computer glitches, ethereal vocals, even the occasional string or brass section are all blended together into a dense but uniformly melodic mix that recalls psychedelic rock -- Pink Floyd, of course, and Hawkwind, too: the intro to "Hollywood Has Ended" tethers on the brink of ripoff, though Flaming Lips are a more likely influence. Shadows of Wayne Coyne and the gang loom tall on Grappling Hooks in general, though NAO trade the quirkiness for a more detached mood that may bring to mind pop science documentaries, thanks to all the scientific imagery. The music is not as dynamic, composition-wise, as it could have been -- which is to say that NAO attempt some buildups and quieter sections, but for the most part go on the same cruise speed and same level of intensity, more interested in trying out some guitar line or rhythm pattern they haven't tried yet than in turning the volume up or down. It's not a record to fall in love with on the first try -- too multi-layered, and lacking explicit hooks -- but giving in to its pleasantly dreamy, almost shoegaze-like atmosphere will reveal there's a lot of nice stuff to explore. Besides, try not to hum the refrain to "Cell Count" after a couple of listens.

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