Sand - 'Sand'

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Sand - 'Sand'

Debut solo album from North Sea Oscillation's (NAO) frontman and songwriter, Sam Healy.

When I see that an album is on the Kscope label I tend to feel I know how it's going to sound before I play it as their artists seem to sit in a fairly narrow genre of modern Prog, and Sand pretty much prove my point. Where this differs from the likes of Porcupine Tree or Steven Wilson is that there's little use of the really quiet section being suddenly interrupted by coruscating riffs, which makes this a less challenging listen in comparison.

Sand is the debut solo album from North Sea Oscillation's (NAO) frontman and songwriter, Sam Healy. "I wanted to try something that I could work on entirely alone, with no deadlines or schedules intruding on the process. It was an experiment to see if I could conceive and execute a whole record without any outside influence. I only told a few people about it until it was almost complete. I had a sense I should try something else before starting on a third NAO album, something with a different feel, a musical palate-cleanser."

'Life is Too Easy' opens with a repetitive piano refrain and mournful vocal before other instruments are added with the drum pattern becoming dominating. Contrary to my earlier comment at the halfway point the song suddenly bursts into life for a matter of seconds only to drop back into its earlier pattern. In truth the track is a bit dull and doesn't get my juices flowing, but the following 'Clay' is much more like it with a its strong up tempo feel and memorable melody. I'm reminded of RPWL with their foot on the throttle. During its second half it gets very orchestral, giving it a filmic quality.

Just when I thought 'Destroyer' was going to be a bit a dull a wonderful vocal arrangement kicks in and a lovely chorus marks it out as an album highlight. Healy clearly has a knack for vocal arrangement and the best moments certainly where he uses them rather than a sole voice.

'On A Spent Sea' is a simple instrumental led by some delightful piano and the piano is again to the fore on 'Astray'. However, at this point I found my attention wavering and hoping that Healy could sing in a manner that doesn't reflect an all pervading gloominess.

Sand is one of those albums where if a song appeared as part of a shuffle on my iPod I'd listen to it but not one I can imagine listening to all the way through post review. Why? Because it feels one paced and lacking in stuff that gets your foot tapping or burrowing into the subconscious.

Gary Marshall

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