Poliça in Whelan’s, Dublin on Saturday 23rd of March 2013
There has been an explosion in electronic indie in the past few years. Since The xx – the first of the genre to achieve critical and commercial – burst onto the scene in 2009 there have been many to follow. The likes of Grimes and Purity Ring, while having more about them than to be considered imitators, have followed down a similar path.
But there has been a lingering problem when these sorts of bands play live – certainly Purity Ring and The xx in the early days – in that there was little to focus the attention of the audience member. Without a guitarist or ‘lead singer’ (while there is singing, it doesn’t really lead the sound) or music to get people really dancing, crowd’s attentions often slip from the stage into scattered chatter.
Poliça fit into that broad genre but do not seem to be subject to the same pitfalls. “How?” you may ask. Well, the fact that they have two drummers constantly firing out the beats goes a lot of the way towards explaining it.
Front woman Channy Leaneagh should also claim a lot of the credit. She gets out from behind the sampler in front of her to dance. And when she does, she really seems to be getting into to the music. Her arms snake about her body reminiscent of Madonna’s Frozen video, less the weird, billowy clothing. She does not interact with the audience too much, but her passion for what she is doing it totally engaging.
And all that is before we even get to the music. ‘Give You the Ghost’ was an album that flew mostly under the radar before latterly developing into a sleeper hit. Rightly so too, because it’s fantastic, and the songs translate incredibly well to a live setting. On the album they are ambient and atmospheric. Live, they are so powerful they are almost overwhelming.
During Fist Teeth Money (one of the few tracks that has anything resembling a ‘hook’), for example, it seems the bass could break bones such is its power. It’s not the sort of bass that’s all-consuming either, as it doesn’t distract from the more subtle sounds which sit over it. These sounds are Leaneagh’s distinctive vocals (layered and echoed to add fathoms of depth) and pre-recorded synths and keys.
It’s not all perfect, however. The duo of Happy Be Fine and new song Tilt do get a little lost in the sound in the middle before Wandering Star, Lay Your Cards Out and Amongster – complete with a fantastic, almost foghorn-like intro – are good enough to instantly banish any disappointment to the recesses of the mind.
To call these songs highlights is to actually do a disservice to the rest of the set, which was filled with high points throughout. Even the new songs (including a two song encore of new material) didn’t blunt the impact of an act who really know how to play and perform. Listen to their album and see them live because Poliça are fantastic.