Formed in 2011, Poliça have carved out a moderately successful career skirting various genres—a little of the tactile, atmospheric production of modern electronic music; flashes of electro-pop and brassy orchestral ornamentation. This latest salvo marks a schism from their previous works in several ways, both finding the group teaming up with Berlin-based orchestral collective Stargaze, and (at least ostensibly) casting off the autobiographical, relationship-centric narratives of their previous albums in favour of a grander political scope.
The political angle here will inevitably be contentious. Trump looms over chunks of the album as an abstract, unspecific bogeyman, particularly dominating “How Is This Happening”, which was apparently written on the day after the 2016 election. In a voice which could credibly be mistaken for Björk’s, singer Channy Leaneagh murmurs of her disbelief at the utterly transformed national landscape around her. The track dangerously skirts self-parody in its capitulation to drab stock phrases—“Our freedom isn’t really free”, “We have got a lot of work to do”—and in its inclusion of the now cliched device of the increasingly dissonant orchestral backing, although it surprisingly proves to be the only overtly political aside on what is billed as a political album.
Of course, other tracks could also be read through a political lens: the title track’s “Give me a worthy tool/To tell me it’s not over” is perhaps an assertion of continued political resistance, to latch onto a random example. However, the danger is of re-contextualizing the entire album through an only sporadic political narrative. Without this awareness of the circumstances of the album’s production and its flashes of overt politicization, most of the songs here are vague and open-ended enough to function equally well as micro, personal vignettes and macro, national critique.
The orchestral flourishes here are a double-edged sword, both enriching the otherwise spartan likes of “Speaking of Ghost” and producing a propensity for time-consuming, indulgent atonality of which “How Is This Happening” is the worst culprit. “Cursed” tramples through brash Dictaphone-rap and clattering junglist drums, with “Marrow” venturing into industrial chug, imposing orchestral swells and drooping, off-kilter synth lines. However, the album’s highlight is “Agree”, “Music For the Long Emergency” revealing a surprising knack for pop melody in perhaps its most straightforward cut. The track coheres beautifully, Stargaze’s strings in the chorus warming its tender, swooping melody. Perhaps the album’s potentially sour political gripes deserved to be sold through this sort of rich sweetness, even if their discordant musical backings were closer thematic matches. Write a catchy enough tune and people won’t realise what they’re singing until it’s too late. CO