Raising The Fawn have gone about putting out their releases in a rather strange way. The North Sea is actually the first release that the group recorded, even though it's being released nearly half a year after their By The Warmth Of Your Flame EP, which was recorded with a newer band lineup after The North Sea was finished. The young group (featuring a touring member of Broken Social Scene, among others) have already woven an interested web for themselves, and despite some lineup changes early on, this debut album actually has a bit more continuity overall than their newer EP.
Stretching 8 songs over nearly an hours worth of time, The North Sea is definitely more expansive in terms of overall sound. The opening of "The News" starts out with unaccompanied female vocals before guitars and vocals by John Crossingham build in and the song fills out nicely before swelling beautifully towards the end. "Home" moves in similar directions, starting out with a slower pace but building into something more driving. It's also on the aforementioned track that the Radiohead comparisons are the most apparent, as reverbed guitar melodies chime out like The Bends-era Greenwood classics.
The group is actually at their best when they're swaying gently as if influenced by the slow swells of the sea by the same name as the album. On the album-titled track of "The North Sea (Lost At Sea)," they stomp on things a little bit more, and while the track is by no means offensive, it just doesn't pack the punch or atmosphere that the slow burners on the album do. A fine example of such is "Top To Bottom," which growls with an absolutely sinister bass guitar melody and sonar pings, building with an almost tribal rhythm and holding things back until the very last moment before letting loose.
The final two songs on the album both run over 10 minutes long, and they fall into similar places as above. "Drownded" starts out rollicking but doesn't really draw the listener in until things get a little more dense, while "Eta" brings atmosphere right away with a thick swirl of multiple guitars and submerged drums that swamp you in and refuse to let you go before a rapid-fire snare gets going and propels the track into the next movement. After several member changes in only a short period of time, it will be interesting to see if the group can now pull things together and refine their sound even further. Despite many solid tracks over the course of two releases, they still sound as if they're reaching to full define which direction they want to move in. If you enjoyed their 'debut' EP, you'll definitely want to hunt this one down, and if you're looking for some great atmospheric rock music in general, you'll definitely find things to love.