Polií§a – Give You The Ghost
Born as an offshoot of Bon Iver’s soft-rock in-joke Gayngs, Polií§a is the brainchild of singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olson. Save for a propensity for autotune, though, Polií§a has more in common with the snow-bound, electro-goth torch songs of Austra, Zola Jesus and Grimes than indie rock’s most famous cabin-dweller.
Produced by Spoon’s Jim Eno, Give You The Ghost is Polií§a’s debut, and the Spoon man brings precisely none of that band’s dry understatement to proceedings here. Instead, the album is characterised by synths, reverb and singer Leaneagh’s autotuned moan, punctuated by sudden, frenzied percussion crescendos. The minor-key arrangements, largely constructed by Olson, are frequently gorgeous, making full use of the rhythmic opportunities allowed by twin drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu, but without sacrificing grooves.
While occasionally overbearing Leaneagh’s expressive vocals carry a meaning beyond their lyrics, which is fortunate, as those lyrics are largely inaudible – ‘Amongster’, for instance, conjures up burning monasteries and amputated hands, even if you can’t catch the lyrics that describe said scenes. Much is gained through this obfuscation, but much is also lost: it allows Polií§a to deal in skyscraping, larger-than-life emotional content without succumbing to mawkishness; at the same time, though, there’s a sense of remoteness, fed by the glistening textures and gargling-robot vocals, that seems to prevent these songs from hitting as hard as they might. The leaner, more muted likes of ‘Wandering Star’ and ‘The Maker’ are album highlights. Olson’s arrangements are pared back just enough to allow Leaneagh some breathing space, and the results are more natural and more affecting.
Polií§a are able stylists, but their atmosphere-for-atmosphere’s-sake approach can tend to bury their best moments – it is only when something breaks out from the aural fog (usually one of their twin-drum freakouts), or when the fog lifts (on the leaner, R&B-flavoured mid-section) that Giving You The Ghost excites as it should.