North Sea Radio Orchestra @ Roundhouse Studio
North Sea Radio Orchestra.
Camden Roundhouse FreeDM Studio. 07mar09.
Lovers of the abrasive may not warm to the North Sea Radio Orchestra. Or they might, everyone needs to relax their angles and jut every now and then. I suppose I should use myself as an example. Ordinarily I favour grubby sounds that tweak and jab over the more delicate song writing. Aside from that it’d be fair to say, I am no aficionado of classical music, despite a fondness for a big orchestral sound.
However, give me a chamber ensemble of ten playing sounds that evoke medieval early music as well as Victorian parlour recitals, and I melt. Perhaps because the North Sea Radio Orchestra circle around the family of groups that orbit Cardiacs, m’all-time faves, groups like Shrubbies, Sidi Bou Said, The Monsoon Bassoon, Lake Of Puppies and Stars In Battledress (the latter of whom support tonight, sharing a member in James Larcombe). When I last saw NSRO, at St-Martin-In-The-Fields in 2006, they performed with the North Sea Chorus, containing many members, part and present, of the bands listed above, so in a way it was like watching my own personal super group, whilst sat uncomfortably in a pew.
For this concert there is no North Sea Chorus (and I am sat in a chair), the harmony parts taken by band leader Craig Fortnam, his wife and lead vocalist Sharon, and Dug Parker. Yet the pieces lose none of their power for this downsizing, and Sharon’s solo parts, such as on the William Blake arrangement The Angel and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s Every Day Hath Its Night, are equally remarkable as she shapes her mouth widely to surf the longer notes, but without resorting to a bellow.
The North Sea Radio Orchestra make a pleasingly delicate music that might not excite the pulse but that caresses and sweeps, particularly in their longer cycles like Kingstanding and He Gives His Beloved Certain Rhymes (instrumental and vocal pieces respectively), like interlocked dandelion seeds on a placid coastal breeze.
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