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This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… North Sea Radio Orchestra April 25, 2015

Posted by WorldbyStorm in This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....

It’s not often someone suggests I might like to listen to a group based on the recommendation that they’re a cross between Neu and chamber orchestra and…while… er… some of their stuff is a bit twee that’s okay and I shouldn’t let it put me off. Further investigation uncovers a description of North Sea Radio Orchestra as ‘a small orchestral ensemble led by a married couple’ – not words that would usually be calculated to inspire any great affection on my part. And yet…

That description was taken from a review of the group on BBC which also notes that they ‘have made two previous albums which used poetry by the likes of Chaucer, Hardy and Tennyson instead of pop lyrics. Occasionally sound like the music Oliver Postgate used to backdrop Watch With Mother. They feature a bassoon. North Sea Radio Orchestra really should be smug, boring and irrelevant. So how do they make this stuff so exciting?’

Good question.

The short answer is probably because Craig and Sharron Fortnam, who are at the heart of the ensemble, cleave to a template pretty much their own – one which is classically inflected, contains elements of folk, electronica and so on but combined in a way that allows those influences to swim in and out of focus sparingly. It’s pared back, resolutely not rock, and all the better for it. The range of references in reviews are interesting, from Vaughn Williams, to Zappa, the Incredible String Band, Neu (natch), Tortoise, Kate Bush and more.
And yes, no surprise that prog has embraced them to its tricksy little heart, not least given that Kavus Torabi and MelanieWoods of Knifeworld and Sidi Bou Said are just some of those who have worked with NRSO previously while there are other connections to Ginger Wildheart, the Cardiacs, and a classical outfit – Instrumental – who cover Orbital and so on.

NSRO’s most recent album (and their third album proper) is I a moon – released in 2011, from which the tracks below are taken. Well worth a listen.

Berliner Luft

Morpheus Miracle Maker

Heavy Weather

The Earth Beneath our Feet

Mitte Der Welt


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