Live review: Polica at The Arches, 7/2/14

_MG_0890Tonight, Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson’s two-kit-drum collaboration and Chris Bierden taut bass sounds are tastefully emitted from a pounding and resounding PA system providing an under bellying assault that contrasts Ryan Olson’s smooth and ethereal electronic soundscapes, which are further embellished by Channy Leaneagh’s natural and soulful vocal prowess.

By pure veracity, the Minneapolis five-piece, have the kind of backline that would be an appositely befitting – fully functioning – replacement in a clean-room manufacturing unit, with the kind of duteous precision and laboriously mechanical timing that is a mandatory prerequisite in a quick-firing production assembly-line.

It is an aptly metaphorical distinction, indicative of the parallels of the power-driven organisation and fastidiously based skill necessary for the two drummers – binding together intricate-locust-ticking stereophonic-sonic-booms – subduing the over complexities.

Clarity is the name of the game here, as it is the sum of these meticulously based parts that carve out the wholeness of the deep-rooted and hermetically sealed monolithic finishing product  (both albums excel in the rhythm department and there are no surprises as to the technical prowess in the live department too) with a proximal-distal musicality.

The Minneapolis quintet are nineteen shows into their European tour by the time they arrive in Glasgow, which is no mean feat given the capricious nature of touring an abundance of European cities on a consecutive basis.

Fortunately, tonight’s performance shows no signs of travel fatigue – with an endurance-paced performance, spiraling back-and-forth from rnb to electro-goth-pop – splitting material from both, Give You the Ghost and Shulamith respectively.

First track ‘Spilling Lines’ is a bass heavy house track postulated with sonically-assaulting-duel-hitting bass drones, bifurcatingly amplified through the stereo mix of the PA serving a ubiquity of low-frequency reverberations.

The clarity driven vocals adjust against the inexorably programmed loops with Leaneagh applying an abundance of effects from her small keyboard rig.

The vocal replenishments been used to great effect operating as further extension of Leaneagh’s voice; crafted to a restrained perfection and extracting and acting as a subtle entity in its own right.

Rhythmically, the tracks are perforated with incendiary and cataclysmic embers, with the twin drums and sampled percussive elements, alongside pulsating electronic soundscapes etching out a cavernous scope of chemical imbalances; misfired neuronal impulses, creating a concoction of amorphous synaesthesia.

Olson’s snaking rnb sensibilities’ are well suited to Leaneagh’s covertly introverted lyrical style, taking the fundamentals of the pop genre and adding slightly murkier hues and eerily coating subconsciously predictable melodies with darker undertones and skewed, modulating gradients.

The results create aptly innovative, thought-provoking and gratifying soundscapes.

Leaneagh wears her heart on her sleeve, delving into deep-rooted emotive subjects such as failed marriage; whether everlasting love is conceptually attainable – or if one should intuitively move on once a relationship has taken its course.

Her voice and moderately physical demeanor (she is tied to her keyboard vocoding, auto tuning and looping her voice for a dominant part of the show) are befitting to the moody topical issues, all while making a conscientious effort not to lose the crowd.

The instrumentation of ‘Lay Your Cards Out’ coincides with the topical nature of the song, with Leaneagh’s lyrics hinting at an apparently low point in her life – adding a jarringly, valium-induced intoxication which befits the subdued feline-esque pacing.


The equally emotive and schizophrenic sounding ‘Very Cruel’ grabs the crowd with the hauntingly mesmerizing line, “look at you now, you forgot those lyrics,” hinting at the subjective content of past mistakes and hindsight, that one is all too familiar with.

‘Warrior Lord’ is a regression back into the familiar territory of Give You the Ghost with the twists and turns of the melody nursing Leanaugh back into a far more comfortable place.

Highlight of the night comes from the most commercial track from their now extensive repertoire of singles in the dance-floor catchy ‘Chain My Name’, which perks up the audience from a stupor of mid-set mediocrity.

It is nothing of the band’s wrongdoings, and perhaps that is the crux of the problem.

The set is tight – perhaps too tight – leaving no room for unpredictability (with exception of an elusive cloaked/hooded like figure [Olson?] appearing out of nowhere to make a few minor adjustments to Leanaughs set-up – but nobody seems to question it).

The set would have finished anti-climatically had it not been for the angsty performance of Lesley Gore’s anthemically feministic punk-slamming ‘You Don’t Own Me’ (which is an nod feminist writer Shulamith Firestone, in which the new album takes it’s name).

The punky sentiments are a protruding departure from the rigidly aligned set, but it allows for Leaneagh to add some vivacity to her vocal spectrum, as was also seen in ‘Chain My Name’.

Technically, the performance tonight was great, suitably subdued in parts, and assertively tranquil in parts, and with Polica’s third album, hopefully they can finely tune these nuanced elements, and create more of a balance between the lows and the highs that are on display.

More photos

Words: Derek Robertson
Photos: Jayjay Robertston


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