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Polvo - Celebrate the New Dark Age CD (album) cover



Post Rock/Math rock

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Eclectic Team
4 stars Polvo is a math rock band formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1990 by Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski, both of whom are the band's vocalists and guitarists. There are different possibilities about what the meaning of the band's name is since the word can mean octopus in Portuguese, or powder, dust or slang for sex in Spanish. Even though their music is classified as math rock, the band doesn't always agree with that. Their music can be quite complex and unpredictable, having an angular style which causes some people to think they are playing out of tune.

The band's first EP "Celebrate the New Dark Age" was released in 1994, after releasing 2 full length albums previous to that. It has 7 tracks that span a total run time of just over 25 minutes. It is considered the 2nd most important math rock album by Rate Your Music website and is quite critically acclaimed. The scrappiness of this album, according to alternative-country singer Ryan Adams, is also what makes it appealing and I completely agree.

Starting off with the 5 minute track "Fractured (Like Chandeliers)", you instantly hear that angular sound from dissonant guitars which seem just off tune from the rest of the music. The band is also known for the frequent use of the whammy bar, and you can hear that on this track too. The sound is a bit chaotic, but not using the wall of sound style as much as just being dissonant and unique. The lyrics are sarcastic, as they usually are from this band. There is a little bit of screaming here, but nothing over the top, with a bit of the post punk attitude.

"City Spirit" starts off a bit quieter with a guitar and a ticking percussion. When the band kicks in, the song still remains less chaotic, just a bit off kilter, but more accessible. The wobbly feel in the guitar is a great effect. "Tragic Carpet Ride" goes back to a louder sound with the guitars feeling a bit muddy, but still with a jangly, out of tune feel. The math rock mentality gives the music a sound that is a definite step above the typical post-punk sound of bands like Sonic Youth with a noise aspect that is more organized than SY's sound. "Solitary Set" is more dynamic with the odd guitar riffs, but with some quiet moments in there that give it all an organized feel.

"Every Holy Shroud" is a good example of why so many people hear the math rock sound in their music. This has a heavy beat that the vocal melody uses quite well to give it all a catchy sound. Again the band uses dynamics quite well to make the music feel organized even though it also has that imperfect undertone to it, which definitely gives the EP its appeal. The lyrics and the music has a lot of humor to it, and there are some very interesting meter shifts throughout. At just about 6 minutes, this is the longest track on the EP.

"Old Lystra" is an instrumental that starts off as if it is not sure where it wants to go, but finally settles in to a moderate tempo with a slight western sounding edge to it. Later it uses a warbly guitar sound that keeps things just a bit uneasy. "Virtual Cold" has a slow beat and trashy sounding guitars sounding like they are trying to create a blues-inspired rock riff, but not quite pulling it off. This is definitely scrappy sounding, but in a really good way.

If you love your music with a unique sound, that sounds like it is just not quite right, quirky and odd, but with a bit of a hard pop edge and post-punk like, but better, than this is your type of music. If you like music that is typical, then you won't want to do this, but if it was typical, it wouldn't really be progressive. Since this album is considered a standard bearer for math rock, then it is definitely an important one. I know that I enjoy it, because of it's off-kilter sound, but since it is an EP, it doesn't quite reach the essential status, but I can definitely give it an excellent rating as it does achieve its aim in its short run time. Great stuff and quite off-the-wall.

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Posted Sunday, March 10, 2019 | Review Permalink

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