Poliça/Marijuana Deathsquads – review

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

Prince's extended working holiday is currently the talk of London, but he is not Minneapolis's only musical polyglot. The Twin Cities' reclusive Ryan Olson has conceptualised, produced and released a slew of eclectic bands, notably the 25-piece soft-rock collective Gayngs, via his underground, none-more-hip label Totally Gross National Product.

Despite being their chief songwriter and musical director, the Svengali-like Olson hardly ever tours with his artists but makes a rare appearance tonight, barking instructions from the side of the stage as two of them finish up a short UK jaunt. Marijuana Deathsquads shape atonal electronica and pulverising percussion into a wilful racket presumably aimed at the demographic who find Fuck Buttons just too darned melodic and conventional.

Lauded by admirers as diverse as Jay Z and their sometime collaborator Justin Vernon of Bon Iver, Poliça are a far more rarefied affair. Their recent, second album, Shulamith, named after late feminist activist Shulamith Firestone, evokes the exquisite anguish of a failed infatuation via alternately barbed and sumptuous xx-style electronics and the keening, Auto-Tune-mutated musings of lead singer Channy Leaneagh.

Live, the twitchy Leaneagh is a black-clad silhouette flanked by two drummers and a nimble bassist. Poliça's melancholic songs are a seductive pulse, with Leaneagh's siren tones jagging into the carnal throb of their best, most soul-baring tracks such as Tiff and Dark Star, as if Throwing Muses' Kristin Hersh had taken to fronting Portishead.

The ambience and atmospherics are immaculate, but eventually Poliça's tasteful, understated laments are so samey that the evening sinks into a meticulous torpor. You wait eagerly for a killer harmony or mercurial twist that never comes: it seems Ryan Olson needs to write them a few more distinctive songs.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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