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# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

North Sea Radio Orchestra - Birds

  by Anthony Middleton

published: 10 / 12 / 2008

North Sea Radio Orchestra - Birds
Label: Oof ! Records
Format: CD


Pastoral second album from the North Radio Sea Orchestra, whose with their use of musical instruments from the medieval age, have created an album that is very English as well as being of rare beauty and musical brilliance

The North Sea Radio Orchestra have, along with the likes of XTC and Blur, a reputation for being very English. This Englishness tends to be attached to anyone who is quirky, experimental with musical forms and who perhaps yearns for some time other than right here and right now. No doubt Neil Hannon would be the epitome of being very English if the blighter wasn’t Irish. Perhaps Frank Zappa and Stephen Malkmus should be described as very English as well. That aside, 'Birds', is an album of rare beauty and musical brilliance. Using an array of musical instruments from the medieval age until the present day, the album is a gentle, pastoral ramble around the backwaters of less travelled areas of music. Some, like 'The Angel and A Poison Tree' have lyrics courtesy of William Blake, while 'Welcom Somer' uses a Geoffrey Chaucer poem as its inspiration. Apart from being stunningly beautiful, they have the benefit for the North Radio Sea Orchestra that they didn’t have to pay the lyricist a penny. 'A Poison Tree' in particular takes the near perfection of Blake’s verse and with nothing more than classical guitar backing, takes it to a sublime level. Anyone acquainted with 'Lucy', Neil Hannon’s early interpretation of Wordsworth’s paean to the beauty of, yes, England, will be impressed that this is at least its equal. The brainchild of guitarist Craig Fortnam, North Radio Sea Orchestra is no self indulgent project to demonstrate his understanding of, and proficiency with chamber music and sundry other forms. Some songs feel like something that Henry VIII may have tapped a a sandal to, while others are nearly operatic in feeling. 'Move Eastward, Happy Earth' swings between the startling pure singing of Sharron Fortnam and a choir that lend the air of carol. While the crystal clear perfection of Fortnam’s singing is initially arresting, it is the sheer inventiveness of the music that impresses even more. Of a couple of instrumentals on 'Birds', 'Copt Gilders' meanders around like a swallow swooping over through the milky late afternoon sunshine of an English (or any other country you may care to mention) summer. Another instrumental, 'Personent Hodie' is elaborately adapted from a Holst hymm. Golden Cage is the only song that makes any noticeable attempt to sound commercial by toning down the classical influence, resulting in something approaching pop. What makes 'Birds' so special is that it is an unusual combination of instrumental and songs. Not simply that some numbers are instrumentals; the songs are not merely accompanied by the music but rather they are duets between the voices and instruments. 'Birds' is original, tuneful and quite beautiful, obviously something that could not have been created north of Hadrian’s Wall or west of Offas’s Dyke. In all probability, the North Radio Sea Orchestra will be ignored or rejected as being too clever or elitist. Now, that is very English.

Track Listing:-
1 The Angel
2 The Wound
3 Copt Gilders
4 Move Eastward, Happy Earth
5 A Poison Tree
6 The Flower
7 Harbour Wall
8 Guitar Miniature #2
9 Phantom
10 Personent Hodie
11 Now Welcom Somer
12 Golden Cage

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