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Reviews previews: Poliça — Give You the Ghost

June 10, 2012

The XX, Portishead and shades of Blonde Redhead; these are just a few artistes with whom one can equate the Poliça sound. Simultaneously though, despite the many comparisons that abound, the band produces music which is singular and inimitable. A major reason for this uniqueness is Poliça’s ability to combine a variety of sounds and influences that in other hands may prove overwhelming to even the well-trained ear. The use of synthesisers, keyboards, auto tune, reverb, echo and looping all put together should result in something that comes across as gimmicky and overdone, but the final product is something quite different. Give You the Ghost is an album in which things come together in a deliberate fashion while producing songs that are introspective and ethereal.

Yet another stand-out quality is the seamlessness from song to song. There are too few albums that are great in their entirety, fewer still that have songs segueing with the continuity on display here.

If the album seems moody and bordering on heartache, well then that’s because it is. The songs are inspired in part by the divorce of vocalist Channy Leaneagh. It seems throughout the album that Leaneagh has a beautiful voice, though one can’t quite be certain since the band consistently opts to filter it through an auto tune. The phenomena is recent to the world of indie music, and while I would typically be wary of such heavy usage in a single album, Poliça breaks down the distinction between Leaneagh’s voice and the band’s music with this tool, making it partially responsible for the aforementioned seamlessness of Give You the Ghost.

The opening track, Amongster, provides the first impression, which proves consistent throughout the album in terms of unorthodox arrangements, unpredictable beats and weightlessness within the music that is contagious to the listener. The song itself evokes sorrow and passion in the same breath, and you’ll find yourself wondering if this is the tempo the album will stick to, totally unsure as to whether or not you want it to change. The video to the song is itself an experience that will be relished by anyone who enjoys the track, but be warned; watching it at work is ill-advised.

The slow tempo lasts another song before taking on some urgency in Violent Games, where the drumming picks up as do the distortions. This is a good moment to point out that this six-piece band has two drummers playing at once.

Dark Star sees Poliça breaking things down to a cleaner sound, most closely resembling the bare bones approach of The XX, with Leaneagh’s voice taking centre stage. This theme of relatively simple arrangements will go on for several songs, but without any lulls or monotony; Poliça has a Radiohead-type way of injecting sounds and instruments into a song, and that keeps you on your toes as a listener, thinking. Whenever you think that Give You the Ghost will become great music playing in the background, it pulls you back in and commands your attention.

Therefore, it’s evident why this band has become popular among talented and varied musicians. Jay-Z picked up on them early on, as did the members of Bon Iver, one of whom (Mike Noyce) is featured on Lay Your Cards Out, a solid track full of echoes that retains it’s mellowness even through the crashing of cymbals. It’s already the final song when the pace truly picks up, once again through the help of percussion, with drums going mad to a point of climax, and before you know it the album is done.

It takes a certain talent to have listeners go through an album in constant anticipation of what will come next. That feeling is all the more strong when you realise you’ve reached the end of Give You the Ghost. If this debut is anything to go by, whatever comes next from Poliça will be worth the wait.

Asad Khawaja hosts Moonlight Mile Thursdays 10pm to 12 midnight on CityFM89