Album review: North Atlantic Oscillation - Grappling Hooks

A surprising complexity and ambition inform this re-released debut album - but can Grappling Hooks’ early promise last the distance?

With a bonus disc of remixes and a BBC session in tow, Edinburgh trio NAO’s debut record is an even more varied proposition.

Named after the phenomenon of fluctuations in atmospheric pressure, NAO approach their music with arms as wide as the horizon, scooping up violins, orchestra or grandiose arrangements alongside a myriad of bleeps, glitches and musical sharp-turns to keep you on your toes.

Coming across like The Earlies on Cell Count’s psychedelic indie, the opening salvoes of Grappling Hooks are surprisingly coherent, and overall they just about manage to marshall their musical whims towards an enchanting, rather than self-absorbed, path.

But cogent beginnings frustratingly fizzle out in an insipid second half, heralded by the turgid wet lettuce that is Alexanderplatz, and the irritatingly scattergun drums of follow-up 77 Hours.

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An ambitious, assured and occasionally audacious debut that falls short of its aim, the bonus material is, as always, a mere distraction.

3 stars

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