North Sea Radio Orchestra; born in the alleys and lanes of the City of London, then spreading out across the metropolis, performing shows in churches, concert halls, galleries and festivals, two album releases with glowing reviews and several BBC6 sessions. Now, after a short period of hibernation they return with their third album; 'I a moon'.
Written throughout the Autumn and Winter of 2010/2011 by band leader and guitarist Craig Fortnam with a pencil and paper, guitar and piano and recorded 'at various locations in southern England on his laptop', 'I a moon' retains the unique NSRO line-up of strings, woodwind, percussion, guitars, keyboards and voices but with a darker, less pastoral sound, with synth and percussion taking a more prominent role than on their previous two albums. Another departure is a move away from using poetry to the more personal use of self-penned lyrics : 'I a moon, orbiting myself. Sometime gravity pulls me close?.'.
On this new release, the influences apparent on the first two albums (Britten, Vaughan Williams, Reich, ISB, 70's prog) have been augmented by a distinct whiff of Krautrock (on the instrumental 'Berliner Luft') while the angular guitars of 'Ring Moonlets' show a debt to the dual guitar textures of Deerhoof. NSRO continue to blend their influences in a highly imaginative and unusual way, while all the time having an ear for the beautiful, be it in melody, texture or chord.
The uniqueness of NSRO's music has meant they have never really belonged to any 'scene', having always defied categorisation. Some continue to include them in with the 'Nu Folk' phenomenon but in reality they continue as they have always done; doing it all themselves, ploughing their own furrow outside of any group or affiliation, creating beautiful, crafted music for music lovers uninterested in category or genre. It is in this light that they have set up their own label, 'The Household Mark', to release this record. The creative freedom that flows through this album in part springs from the liberating feeling of not having to seek assurances from label, contemporaries or advisors. Without them NSRO have been free to create a unified collection of songs and instrumentals that will stand up to scrutiny for years to come.
Since the release of their second album 'Birds' in Dec 2008, NSRO have performed many live shows; from their usual churchy surroundings (the Union Chapel), to the grand (Rennes Opera House) and the down to earth (Brixton Library). They will continue in this vein, the various venues reflecting the broad appeal of the band, attracting fans from the modern chamber music scene right through to indie and alternative music lovers. In this way the audience seem to reflect the influences in the music.
North Sea Radio Orchestra - 'I a moon'; beautiful, redolent, ancient and modern, English and world, unique.
'What makes the North Sea Radio Orchestra so special is Fortnam's gift for orchestration, the deft and original way he puts deceptively simple materials in the hands of sophisticated performers. Melody pours from his pen on every page.'
The Guardian *****
'North Sea Radio Orchestra is the kind of deserving enterprise the BBC should really be throwing money at. Having honed its craft in public libraries and sympathetic places of worsbip, this superbly disciplined chamber ensemble is now more than ready to step onto a larger stage. And as sumptuous swirls of organ, strings, guitar and bassoon eddy around a rapt Spitz, in east London, the pastoral splendour of its debut album comes magically to life. Craig Fortnam's compositions stake out a unique terrain, somewhere between Vaughan Williams's The Lark Ascending and the baroque meditations of Sufjan Stevens, and his wife Sharron populates it with a voice of dazzling, pre-industrial clarity.' The Sunday Telegraph*****