Poliça – review

SWG3, Glasgow

Auto-Tune, the pitch-correction software that squares off wobbly vocals until they resemble Tetris blocks, has come to symbolise everything that is garish and wrong about modern music. Yet Poliça have become one of 2012's most alluring acts by deploying the technique in unexpected ways. Their funereal, deep-sea R&B has made fans of everyone from Bon Iver to noted Auto-Tune sceptic Jay-Z.

Any band from Minneapolis exists in the shadow of Prince, and the touring incarnation of Poliça don't skimp on the rhythm section, with two drummers (and two full drumkits) shadowed by a lolloping, casually gifted bassist. Laptops and black boxes strewn at her feet, singer Channy Leaneagh initially looks outgunned by her three bandmates. But even her unadorned voice is startling enough to cut through their metronomic brew.

The vocal warping creeps in slowly. On the dubby, eerie I See My Mother, Leaneagh's voice artificially trills and fractures as she sings about swallowing whiskey and taking powder. Midway through Dark Star, a brassy, spiralling march that wouldn't sound out of place on the Drive soundtrack, an unexpected choral effect summons harmonies out of thin air. It's a nifty sonic conjuring trick.

Partly, they rely on skilled stagecraft. Leaneagh controls and triggers key effects through her microphone via moment-to-moment modulations of volume. It's a performance that has to double as a programming punchcard, and it should make these wilfully dense songs – mostly recorded in a two-week burst after the dissolution of her marriage – even harder to decode.

No matter how alien Leaneagh sounds, though, there remains an emotional core to Poliça that is both irresistible and slightly overwhelming, a spiritual cousin to the deafening instrumental catharsis of Mogwai. The clattering finale Amongster – where both drummers are permitted to go "full Slipknot" – feels like being bathed in cosmic rays: a little scary, but exciting.

• What have you been to see lately? Tell us about it on Twitter using #GdnReview


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Poliça: Shulamith – review
There's perhaps too much aural clutter around Channy Leaneagh's slinky soul vocals, but Poliça's second album is still a beautiful thing, writes Harriet Gibsone

Harriet Gibsone

17, Oct, 2013 @9:30 PM

Article image
New band of the day – No 1,210: Poliça
Ryan Olson's latest band, who can count Jay-Z in their fan club, will take you on a ghostly journey leftfield of R&B

Paul Lester

17, Feb, 2012 @9:00 AM

Article image
Poliça - Give You the Ghost: exclusive album stream

They're Jay-Z's favourite indie band but are they yours? Let us know what you make of this debut album of leftfield R&B

24, Apr, 2012 @2:19 PM

Article image
Poliça/Marijuana Deathsquads – review

Two Minneapolis bands provide a seductive pulse and a wilful racket respectively – but the former needs a killer hook or two, writes Ian Gittins

Ian Gittins

13, Feb, 2014 @1:52 PM

Article image
Poliça; Bill Callahan – review

Poliça sound better in your head than live, while Bill Callahan's unflinching songs gain their own weather systems, writes Kitty Empire

Kitty Empire

16, Feb, 2014 @12:07 AM

Article image
Channy Leaneagh: my first band died but Poliça is an amazing job

Debut came together in two weeks, with the Gayngs man who recruited her staying at home to pull the strings. 'Compromise can make the worst decisions,' they tell us

Michael Cragg

26, Oct, 2012 @3:00 PM

Article image
Poliça: United Crushers review – excitingly upbeat electronica
The Minneapolis band have ditched their brooding edge in favour of a more mature – and more exciting – sound that outstrips the current glut of mannered trip hop

Rachel Aroesti

03, Mar, 2016 @10:00 PM

Article image
Poliça: United Crushers review – bubbling beats but little mystique
Their third album is Poliça’s most straightforward yet

Paul Mardles

06, Mar, 2016 @8:00 AM

Poliça: Shulamith – review
Bewitching vocals stand out in another assured offering from Poliça, but too little lodges in the memory, writes Phil Mongredien

Phil Mongredien

19, Oct, 2013 @11:05 PM

Article image
Poliça – I Need $: New music

The alt-R&B four-piece have married the most immediate song from their latest album to a creepy new video about motel cleaning

Michael Cragg

23, Jan, 2014 @2:01 PM