LIVE REVIEW: North Atlantic Oscillation, Sons of Rust @ Cluny 2, Newcastle (21.03.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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As I’m sitting waiting for Edinburgh-based North Atlantic Oscillation to make their way to the stage, it dawns on me that the Cluny 2 is unusually quiet. Sure, the North Atlanticos journeyed to the old Star and Shadow last year to promote their then recently-released album The Third Day, but they still get airplay on a certain well-known BBC radio station and have been championed for their creativity from all corners. It’s almost a bit of a shame that there weren’t more people there to experience what would be a sonically beautiful and inventive set.

But before Sam Healy and his compatriots took to the small stage, there was the small matter of Sons of Rust’s first ever gig. That’s right. Their first ever gig. It’s later revealed that the band have only been together for four weeks, a fact I found almost impossible to believe. Undoubtedly the three members of the band weren’t exactly greenhorns when it came to playing live; their set was filled with accomplished and varied indie-psych that marked them out as being Ones to Watch. They were constantly conscious of their fledgling status, apologising for some of the roughness of the tracks and laughing off some minor mistakes, but they didn’t have to be. Had they not told the audience of their relative youth, no one would have been any the wiser. By the time their closer Hysteria rolled around (not a cover version, they’re keen to point out), the group’s looping, atmospheric guitars, catchy vocal hooks and incredibly impressive and rhythmic drumming had deservedly won over the crowd.

Of course, North Atlantic Oscillation are far less wet behind the ears and from the first note it was obvious that this was a band who simply ooze professionalism from every inch of their bodies. Like The Third Day, the songs in the set have few pauses in-between, causing an almost hypnotic effect and the trio seemed almost entranced by their own work, in their own little sonic world. As with the album itself, the set had to be experienced in its entirety to be appreciated. Their music – which sits somewhere in the middle of the triangle between Granddaddy, Eels and later Radiohead – is layered and complex, combining rock guitars with synths and electronic beats. There’s also the matter of Sam Healy’s delicate voice, which melodically drifts over the music like Jonsi in his poppiest moments.

There are some wonderfully mind-bending sonic moments within the Atlanticos’ set, but undoubtedly the most heart-rending came during the encore, where they played their gorgeous version of The Flamingos’ I Only Have Eyes For You. It’s a sweet dose of tenderness that shows that they can do emotion as well as they can prove their own musical intelligence. It may not have been the most complex song of the night, but it proved that they could do minimalism as well as maximalism.

It was a shame there weren’t more people to experience the wonders of NAO’s exquisitely crafted live show; should they return to the region in the near future, it’s imperative that you see them.

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