Poliça Live Review @ Village Underground
American band Poliça are back with their third studio album United Crushers due out next month. And to ease themselves back into the live circuit, they hit up Shoreditch venue Village Underground for their only announced UK date of 2016 so far.
Emerging in 2011, following the demise of Poliça frontwoman Channy Leaneagh’s previous band Roma Di Luna and marriage to bandmate Alexei Moon Casselle, the debut album from Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olson’s collaboration, Give You The Ghost, was recorded in just two weeks and resulted in something that couldn’t easily be labelled. Was it synth-pop, dream-pop, RnB, indie rock?
Leaneagh’s unique vocal styling with Poliça, achieved with auto-tuning and a Helicon 5 pedal, allowing for live reverb, delay, harmonies and compressor effects is otherworldly, perhaps another instrument on stage to be tuned and tinkered with. Some might say that it detracts from the frontwoman’s true vocal talent but at the same time such effects give Poliça a completely different edge. That said, Leaneagh’s live vocal styling did seem less processed than on record and somewhat reminiscent of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.
Joined by band members Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, both sat in front of full drum kits, along with Chris Bierden on bass, the quartet’s sound was added to with backing tracks produced by Olson, who never joins the touring line-up.
First of all, this was most definitely a show to air new material. Leaneagh and co. played the entirety of United Crushers interspersed with small offerings from their previous two records. Opening with new album opener Summer Please followed by already released new album cut Lime Habit, the 34-year-old Front-woman finally addressed her audience: “It’s so good to be back in London, we’re not here long enough!”
New track Someway followed, its alternative jazz undertones heightened as dual drummers Ivascu and Christopherson found a break-beat while Bierden carved out an alternative funk bass part. The third new song in a row garnered a tremendous response from an enraptured crowd, a crowd that cheered even harder as the slow bass intro to sophomore album Shulamith track Tiff kicked off.
More of United Crushers was aired before Leaneagh introduced debut album track Wandering Star, “here’s an old one for you” she said. The 700-strong, sold-out crowd cheered hard, but screamed even harder as Bierden took over vocal duties towards the end of the tune.
Next up was new track Top Coat, featuring a particularly heavy outing from the dual drummers along with an effects-heavy bass part, Leaneagh’s delicate vocals laid gently on top. Ivascu and Christopherson’s dual drumming closed out the track in dramatic style, their perfectly timed, cohesive slowdown of tempo simply mesmerising to watch live.
Lighter United Crushers cut Lately was next, a subtle tune that still managed to squeeze in a bass part that vibrated through the very core of the re-purposed Victorian rail viaduct venue.
“It feels good to be back on stage” the Minnesota-native said. “I just had a baby about three months ago, this is my big night out, thanks for sharing it with me”, she joked to an adoring audience. “This is a song called Fish” she said of another new tune, “It’s a little bit of a diary entry”.
With promises to be back before too long, the band’s 17-track set was rounded out by a two-song encore, closer Amongster from debut album Give You the Ghost most definitely getting the biggest cheer of the night.
The track most notable by its absence was fan-favourite Dark Star, which some fans grumbled about as thy exited the venue. But this was most certainly a showcase event for United Crushers and I think it’s safe to say that Poliça listeners both old and new won’t be disappointed by the band’s third outing.
Poliça head back to the US for a 37-date tour including two shows in their hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota on March 3rd & 4th to launch United Crushers, the album’s title inspired by a group of Twin Cities graffiti artists.
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his Flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate