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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

North Atlantic Oscillation

Grappling Hooks

Review by Gary Hill

Perhaps the most pervasive influence to be heard on this album is The Buggles. That sort of sound is really present, at least to some degree, on every piece here. Yet, this is more pure progressive rock, too. There are a lot of other textures here and this is something that might turn off some of the progressive rock purists, but yet it’s not that far removed from classic prog.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Marrow

There’s a great symphonic atmospheric texture to this. It’s kind of like a more classically oriented Enigma. Percussion joins later and then they take it out to something that’s more like a pure modern progressive rock jam. I can make out links to modern Yes on this section.

Hollywood Has Ended
With more of a modern prog ballad element to this, it seems a bit like a cross between Hawkwind and Porcupine Tree. As it powers out from there, this resembles the Yes-like segment of the first cut a bit more, but there are still some of those Hawkwind elements onboard. The keyboards take it out in some cool directions later, too.
Cell Count
More of a hard rocking sound pervades this number. It’s more accessible than the first two pieces (or at least more mainstream). Still, it’s not far removed from a lot of the modern melodic progressive rock. They take it through a few intriguing alterations as it continues. There are some links to Hawkwind later, but also some hints of The Beatles and Klaatu. It turns quite hard rocking later, but then percussion ends it.
Some Blue Hive
Percussion starts this off, then keyboards join. The cut starts to groove from there and has a noisy but melodic texture. There is a definite psychedelic air in place. This moves through a number of changes and again, isn’t that far removed from a lot of other modern melodic progressive rock. There are some great instrumental sections that work across as top layers on this number. It gets very lush at times.
Audioplastic
An instrumental, here’s more of a freeform jazz vibe to the early portions of this, but it turns to more King Crimson-like music as it continues. It’s hard rocking and cool, despite being a little weird. It has a number of variations and shifts throughout.
Ceiling Poem
Psychedelia meets Porcupine Tree and Hawkwind on this cut. It’s mellow at the onset and gradually gets more involved.
Alexanderplatz
A melodic and mellower piece, this is perhaps akin to something like a cross between The Buggles and Alan Parsons. It shifts out to a harder rocking, but still melodic movement later that’s more like modern Yes.
77 Hours
There’s a great melodic prog groove to this. It has a modern sound to it, akin to a lot of the more recent melodic progressive rock groups. It turns to noisier territory later, calling to mind King Crimson and RIO.
Star Chamber
A harder rocking sound brings this one, perhaps a bit like Sweet meets King Crimson. They take it from there into an almost punky jam. Hints of Hawkwind appear and this is a fun tune. They drop it down to a melodic movement dominated by piano. Then it fires back up into hard rock territory. It is an instrumental that works through a number of alterations.
Drawing Maps From Memory
Parts of this powerhouse have a Hawkwind-like texture, but King Crimson and Rush and other sounds are also on the menu at different points. There a number of different movements and sounds to be found here.
Ritual
This starts quite mellow and builds gradually. After becoming quite lush and powerful it drops way down for a mellow movement. There are definite Yes-like elements here. It works gradually back upward. Then it powers out into the hardest rocking, but still melodic, jam of the whole piece. There’s an abrupt twisting sound, then it drops to just a mellow rhythmic structure to end. At over seven minutes in length this is the longest track on the set.
Unlisted track
An unlisted piece ends the set. It’s less than a minute in length and very mellow. It’s just a rather creepy, and quite classical, keyboard solo.
 
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