During the last few years North Atlantic Oscillation have been steadily building both their fanbase and their reputation. Well known fans such as Zane Lowe and Guy Garvey have been joined by a growing number of devoted punters drawn to the band’s unique combination of sonic complexity and melodic intrigue. The band’s second album Fog Electric was released in 2012, following 2010′s Grappling Hooks and numerous tours and festival appearances have accompanied both releases.
Now Sam Healy, NAO’s frontman and songwriter, returns with Sand, a new solo project which will be released on Kscope in October 2013. Written, performed and recorded throughout 2012 and 2013, Sand allowed Sam to work in a different way, as he describes:
“I wanted to try something that I could work on entirely alone, with no deadlines or schedules intruding on the process. It was an experiment to see if I could conceive and execute a whole record without any outside influence. I only told few people about it until it was almost complete. I had a sense after the release of Fog Electric that I should try something else before starting on a third NAO album, something with a different feel, a musical palate-cleanser.”
This change in process has resulted in an album which, while still sure to appeal to fans of Healy’s previous work, has a more intimate and personal feel, both sonically and thematically.
Melodic passages and conventional pop structures are framed by striking changes in dynamics, to create a dramatic sonic palette which ranges from the barely audible to wildly loud and back again, often within the same track. “I’m a huge fan of Talk Talk’s seminal albums ‘Spirit of Eden’ and ‘Laughing Stock’, which probably have the greatest dynamic range in the history of rock and pop,” Sam explains, “Modern technology gives you exquisitely fine control over volume and I wanted to take advantage of this.” The album also has a slightly warmer, less alien feel than NAO recordings, with instruments less likely to be heavily treated and distorted beyond recognition.
NAO take their name from a climatic phenomenon, and their last album dealt with the search for meaning in a scientific, post-religious world, so what has been the inspiration behind Sand? ”A sense of history, of the past, is one of the overarching themes. Not in a particularly melancholic or grieving way, just an acknowledgement of time passing and of the end of all things being built into their beginning.“
The form that this takes varies, at times personal, at others historical. ‘Elegy For The Old Forty-foot’, is an example of the latter, taking its lyrics from a poem written by John Herschel to commemorate the dismantling in 1840 of the telescope built by his father, the astronomer William Herschel. This is another way in which the album differs from North Atlantic Oscillation; as Sam continues, “The lyrics in ‘Sand‘ are maybe a bit more direct and less ambiguous than in NAO, because the themes are less diffuse. The more personal tracks are concerned with surviving hard times while taking care not to throw out the experiential baby with the bathwater — to pan bad memories for gold before throwing them away.”
With work on a new North Atlantic Oscillation album already underway, people are sure to want to know if the Sand album is a one-off project? ”I have no idea yet,” says Sam. “It depends entirely on what people think of it. If there’s ongoing interest, it’ll be an ongoing project.“Order from the Kscope Store www.kscopemusic.com/sand