Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Polvo: noisy 1990s art rock

My musical drug dealer, eMusic, has recently been getting in a wonderful selection of the Merge Records back catalog. Based here in Durham, Merge was founded by Superchunk's Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance back in 1989. They've come a long way from cassette and 7" vinyl releases from local bands -- recent Merge records include music-blog beloved Arcade Fire and Spoon, as well as one of my recurring favorites, the Rosebuds.



But the older stuff is exciting to me, since I now have an affordable way to explore some of the records that got Chapel Hill dubbed the "new Seattle" back in the mid-1990s. There are some that I know to a degree, but not well enough -- all that Superchunk, for one, and Portastatic for another. But I'm also looking forward to checking out Polvo, which I know mostly by name. (If only Archers of Loaf were on eMusic, they'd have the classic package of 1990s Triangle rock...)

Since I haven't heard much yet, I'll swipe the intro to Polvo's All Music profile to explain why I'm interested:
One of the most popular and accomplished bands in the arty, noisy indie rock offshoot dubbed math rock, Polvo touched on many of the style's hallmarks: dissonant, intricately layered guitars that often employed alternate tunings; odd, off-kilter rhythms; an emphasis on dense sonic texture; and unorthodox song structures that, nonetheless, were often unconventionally melodic. Additionally, their music had a pronounced Eastern feel that came not only from the Indian and Middle Eastern-style drones in their compositions, but actual Asian instruments as well; that helped set them apart from other post-Sonic Youth/Slint guitar experimentalists.
The band drifted apart after recording four albums, some members moving to New York and Boston, and split following their 1997 release, Shapes. (They moved to Touch and Go records after a while, so only their earlier albums are on eMusic.)

Here's a song from a 1994 EP, right in the middle of Polvo's run. It's a fuzzy, dissonant ball of energy that has me eager to hear more.

MP3: "Tragic Carpet Ride"
(from Celebrate the New Dark Age, Merge 1994. Buy it here or download here.)

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