North Sea Radio Orchestra - Birds
This 2008 release is the 2nd album by the North Sea Radio Orchestra, who are a contemporary music ensemble who happily cross genres. The band has several ties to Cardiacs and they do a piece by William D. Drake here, as well as including him and Kavus Torabi in the 'North Sea Chorus'. It is led by musical director and composer Craig Fortnam and boy can singer Sharron Fortnam really sing!
“North Sea Radio Orchestra are blossoming in a rather fine way now with their inviting mix of delicate English prog and 20th century classical pastoral folk. Harmonically rich and fluid in a Henry Cow, Art Bears, Incredible String Band kind of way... A fine mix of delicate English folk and something that has evolved out of fine traditions of chamber music… Birds is an album pulling gently in two distinct ways. One direction; nice, simple, sitting in a sunny field, female-voiced acoustic folk, the other towards a rarer thing, this fusion of English medieval progressive classical, chamber orchestral music, via Vaughan Williams, Cardiacs, Vernon Elliott, Henry Cow. In the end, it all works as a melodic spirited integral classical whole. Always more than just decorating modern music with classical instrumentation, at its core a real orchestra, this is something that’s both timeless and enchantingly beautiful – a very fine, very enjoyable rather magical album.”-Organ
Described as a strange alliance between Benjamin Britten, the Incredible String Band, Sufjan Stevens, Vernon Elliot, water from the Thames and London clay, NSRO have a wholly unique sound - using guitars, strings, woodwind, organs, vibes and voices their music ranges from small folk-like songs through to epic post minimal chamber instrumentals – always shot through with a particularly English flavour. – theirs is a world in which harmony and melody abound. This is not simply the token use of ‘classical’ instruments to help with ailing arrangements but rather the integral use of wind, strings, percussion etc within the songs in the truest tradition of chamber music.
‘Birds’ continues in this vein featuring songs, choral numbers (featuring the North Sea Chorus), instrumentals and miniatures. The album has 3 William Blake settings, all with acoustic guitar and voice, whilst at the other end of the spectrum there are instrumentals like ‘Copt Gilders’, using guitars, strings, percussion, wind, organs and monosynth. The truly unique sound of ‘Birds’ comes from the pen of band-leader and guitarist Craig Fortnam, who grew up assimilating English 20th Century classical music alongside 70’s prog, and pop. This has resulted in an album which is melodically and harmonically rich with a lyricism and beauty that sounds timeless yet strangely modern.
The line-up is:
Acoustic guitars, 2 violins, cello, organ, piano, synth, vibes, drums and percussion, bass guitar, clarinet, bassoon, oboe, solo voices and chorus."