Healy’s hallmark as a composer has always been heavily - sometimes deliriously - layered textures, and in this regard ‘Sand’ does feel rather like a successor to ‘Grappling Hooks’. Rather than the post-rock affectations of ‘Fog Electric’, the guitars are more sparing here, used for dynamic effect, as on ‘Life Is Too Easy’, or chopped and screwed in the mix, like in segue ‘Don’t Nod’. Synthesisers are the norm, paired with glitchy, kinetic loops and a beefy rhythm section.
Despite its stubborn alternative credentials, there is something to its pop aspirations, however. On ‘Clay’ and in particular ‘Ashtray’, there’s an ecstatic feeling to the melodies and once the track is in full swing, it’s infectious. ‘A Pill to Keep the Plane from Crashing’ meanwhile showcases another side of the record; like ‘Destroyer’, it is dynamically bent towards more of a build-and-release structure, with a glorious rush of vocal harmonies and layers at its crescendo.
Though it may be disingenuous to so thoroughly compare SAND to Healy’s main project, the fact is that most NAO fans will find this album essential; those not already converted however will no doubt find something to love about this alt electronic gem.