As the British intellectual, Stephen Fry, once said, “it is the useless things that ultimately make life worth living, and that make life dangerous, too. Wine, love, art, beauty, music“, the list goes on. It is with this thought in mind that we turn to today’s recommendation. At the heart of every musician you should locate a creative of the useless. They should simply be a spout pouring music all over our experiences. An outlet for their imagination, a resourceful talent for their inspired artistry. Why most artists stick to one genre, or one band for that matter, should surely be too restrictive for a true artist, a pure musician? Why confine yourself to one outlet? Why channel your creative talents through one prism? Well, you could argue that Ryan Olsen is a shining example of one such unrestricted musician.
If the collaboration that gave us Gayngs is anything to go by then this new project by many of the same protagonists is all set for something special. Leader on that occasion was Ryan Olsen who began Gayngs alongside a multitude of collaborators, including artists with true caliber, such as Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, but tucked in there on some of the vocals was the singer Channy Leaneagh, who was also selected to tour with them. Olsen enjoyed working with her talents so much that they’ve now set about an entirely new project, a new outlet, with her placed front and centre and with him on production, although he’s strangely left off of the credits. So today’s recommendation would like to introduce you to Poliça, (pronounced “poe-lisa”). This new project is like Gayngs, but not as we know it. What we do know is that the early results are very awesome indeed.
You will hear the Olsen factor inside much of Poliça’s music, so much so in fact that there is a risk they may suffer from sounding like Gayngs 2, but we can think of far worse sequels. Their debut album Give You The Ghost was due for a release on this year’s Valentines Day, but arrived earlier than planned. The release is a consistently bright and classy list of tunes. The aforementioned Justin Vernon has been quoted as stating that this “is the best band I’ve ever heard“, but perhaps he’s simply being supportive of fellow Bon Iver bandmate, Mike Noyce, who supplies backing vocals on some of Poliça’s tracks. With him being so close to Olsen’s projects it’s not to be taken too definitively, but the album is without any doubt an enjoyable piece of work. OK Stephen, it may well be useless, but with an experience this rich we are happy to wallow like wasters.
The glowing star of the show is Channy Leaneagh, who some of you may know from the folk rock band Roma di Luna, although this project is entirely departed from that, introducing vocals in a style not seen before. Olsen has selected to use her voice like an instrument, via auto-tune, in a way quite unlike anyone else. Auto-tune is a tool utilised not because Leaneagh cannot sing – she clearly has a stunning natural voice – rather it is there to warp and twist her singing into shapes that would have contortionists tongue tied. It tweaks the voice into an otherworldly, alien-esque dimension, never too much so it ends up irritating the listener as you could imagine, rather it’s just enough to keep things fresh and original. This team clearly aren’t afraid of their own creativity – a compulsory lesson that perhaps could be learned by other musicians. In contrast to this twisting inventiveness there’s much territory that will be familiar to fans of Gayngs, with a smoker’s pace to it all and an atmospheric, slowed, urbanised, hip hop beat.
The songs often swell into lengthy crescendos. Take the three minute mark into Lay Your Cards Out and you find a finish that’s so rapidly tapped out on the snare drums that we imagine the rhythm section’s sticks were an inch shorter by it’s close. Dark Star pulls a similar trick for it’s ending, although in fairness the song starts with a faster pace to begin with, but this time they pull in layers of brass over the jogging pace. Wandering Star is smoother, but less defined, like trying to catch smoke rings in your hand, and again this style is developed through Leaneagh’s ghosted vocals. A full North American tour is happening right now and running throughout March, including a home town show for Leaneagh in Minneappolis. It will be interesting to see who joins them on stage when performing this live, as they clearly have connections across the industry. Collaborative indeed, this project can confidently be classed as a successful experiment. With Olsen and Leaneagh we have a pair of true artists, proper musicians, genuine purveyors of all things utterly futile, that aren’t going to sit still any time soon, so we’d like to take this opportunity to say thank you to Ryan and Channy. Thanks for being so magnificently useless. (MB)
POLICA – LAY YOUR CARDS OUT
POLICA – DARK STAR