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In Prism

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Album Review

Polvo's first studio album since 1997's Shapes, 2009's In Prism is a solid return to mathy form. Although 12 years is a long hiatus, it's hardly noticeable that time has passed, with the exception of a few machinery and personnel updates: trading in their el cheapo '60s Sears guitars for some new gear and swapping out their drummer. Back on Merge after re-forming in 2008 to play All Tomorrow's Parties, the bandmembers (Ash Bowie, Dave Brylawski, Steve Popson, with Cherry Valence drummer Brian Quast) still have their chops intact, and they're intent on using them to create winding guitar and bass riffs and intertwining them with haphazard shifts in tempo. Along with getting mathy and ultra-precise, the band takes the opposite approach and elongates passages, stretching songs into psychedelic space rock territory and surpassing the eight-minute mark on several occasions. As an album, In Prism may not quite live up to the explosiveness of Today's Active Lifestyles — it's more like the calmer (and produced) Shapes. But even if it's not their best ever, it's a valid comeback that should appease longing fans.

Customer Reviews

Incredible!!! Must download for Polvo fans and newbies alike

Wow. The buzz on this album has been significant, and a full listen tells why. This is not a "reunion" album, but just a plain excellent release: this is likely going to be on a lot of "top album" lists at the end of the year. When you have such great, fresh albums like this and Dinosaur Jr's Farm coming from 40-somethings, we're going to start having inquiries about performance-enhancing drugs in indie rock. This album is sort of like Manny or A-Rod jacking 50+ homers late in their careers--almost too good to be true. Avant garde indie-rock pioneers in the 90s, Polvo comes back ten years after their last album to provide an album that leverages their unique legacy (catchy guitar hooks, varying time signatures, complex arrangements, lengthy songs) while providing a sound that is very, very fresh. You proud and few Polvo fans will not be disappointed, but what's more interesting is that this is likely to bring a lot of new fans into the fold (and they thus can sample the 90s Polvo catalog and have their mind blown). Most Polvo fans will likely really love it: imagine a combination of the complex riffs in "Today's Active Lifestyles" with the almost pop sensibility of "Exploded Drawing," but fans who likely were in diapers when Polvo started will be in for a real treat. Surprisingly, "lo fi" Polvo sounds much better with digital recording equipment, better quality instruments, more precise muscianship, and a very tight, kick-a*s drummer. I'd say a few hard-core Polvo fans may be turned off by the much cleaner-sounding album, but to them I'd say listen a few times: all of the Polvo-ness is really there, and like a good Polvo album it merits repeated listens (and will not get old). I recommend downloading the full album as the songs really come together in a nice gestalt, and there really is not a bad song on here. If you want to download songs (you will get your money's worth given their length), I'd say the best tracks are the opening track Right the Relation (incredibly catchy guitar riffs, a head nodder) and the last four songs (long and beautiful 'Lucia', the rhythmic guitarwork of 'Dream Residue', the poppy-yet complex 'Pedlar', and the long and dreamy 'Link in the Chain', which some reviewers don't like but actually is my favorite song).

Pirate Ships in Outer Space, Pepperoni

Polvo simply make music like no other band. Also I am just survived a boat crash, a flying pirate boat- I ordered pepperoni or I think I did. Anyway they are amazing and they took a break to grow up or whatever and no whey de mhade dey made a record as good and probably better than the first double 7 inch record with the gorgan/Godzilla looking thingy. I once saw a flying eye. In a haunted house.

Best of '09 (thus far)

Polvo always made good records. Very good in fact, but there were always a few shrill moments or strange decisions that left me scratching my head. Not this time - this album is incredible beginning to end. It's math rock without the gratuitous athleticism; classic rock without the wanking solos and pathetic cliches. It transitions smoothly from hard punches to chill exploration and back again. Best of '09, thus far.


Formed: 1990 in Chapel Hill, NC

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s

One of the most popular and accomplished bands in the arty, noisy indie rock offshoot dubbed math rock, Polvo touched on many of the genre's hallmarks: dissonant, intricately layered guitars that often employed alternate tunings; odd, off-kilter rhythms; an emphasis on dense sonic texture; and unorthodox song structures that, nonetheless, were often unconventionally melodic. Additionally, their music had a pronounced Eastern feel that came not only from the Indian and Middle Eastern-style drones...
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