Plumbiferous Media

In Prism – Polvo

Sep 13th 2009
In Prism - PolvoPolvo
In Prism
Score: 53

Following an 11-year hiatus, Polvo has reformed and released a new LP, In Prism. With In Prism, Polvo has kept the dissonance that defined it as a band, as well as the odd sense of coherency and musical decisions that made it influential in the development of math rock. In Prism itself, however, is not an excellent album.

Although Polvo does not consider itself a math rock band, it carries the same basic qualities that define the genre, including interesting, unexpected rhythms, lines, and chord progressions. In general, this has fueled well-constructed instrumentals through In Prism. Beginning with the opening track, Polvo creates interesting lines, successful transitions, unexpected bridges, and parts that maintain their power through long tracks (the average track length on In Prism is over six minutes). The next track then begins with a minute-long transion that slowly – nearly invisibly, unless the listener has already heard the track – moves the track from a single, simple acoustic guitar line to a fully fleshed-out song.

But the obvious climax of In Prism is “Beggar’s Bowl.” The track displays creative choice of instrumentation and tambour, changing moods as chord progressions shift in directions rarely attempted on a rock album, syncopation in all its glory, building and direction that refuse to let the track dull, and common lines that piece the entire work together.

In contrast, the vocals of In Prism are easily the worst part of the album, which is a pity, as the album in general is at least fairly interesting in most of its other sections. Vocalists Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski never quite manage to place the vocal line at a point that would let it show itself above the music, and even given the math-rock tendency towards asymmetry and atypical musical decisions, the vocals are closer to irritating than interesting. Sitting heavily on top of the noise of Polvo’s instrumentals, the vocals, which are often most reminiscent of mediocre grunge with a slight classic-rock influence, do nothing but serve to make anything non-instrumental annoying.

Lyrically, the album is equally mediocre. Most of the lines flow by in a soporific drone, and those that are forcibly impressed upon the listener by an unwelcome vocal shift are not noteworthy. The best lyrics are the slightly strange ones, such as “Suddenly the news comes out to play / We look for beauty beyond imperfection.” Very little meaning can be found in any of these such lines, but they do offer a respite from alternately monotonous and irritating vocals.

Equally problematically, the vocals not only dull the overall sound, but dull the instrumentals as well. As if Polvo is putting all of its effort into unsuccessfully improving the vocals, and thereby all but forgetting about the instrumentals, the instrumentals falter whenever the vocals appear. In fact, In Prism falls into a slump after “Beggar’s Bowl,” leaving the listener with several unsatisfying tracks as it gradually regains energy (and subdues the vocals) in an attempt to collect itself.

In short, In Prism is not a strong album, regardless of some strong tracks and creative sections. As the generally quite potent instrumentals combine with the completely inadequate vocals and forgettable lyrics, the album steadily worsens, forcing any listener to consider what would have resulted if Polvo has focused its energy on creating an entirely instrumental album. In Prism is a promising, but lacking album.

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3 Responses

  1. Max Cherry says:

    Can’t help but feel you missed the point of what is an utterly fantastic album. 53 is ludicrous for this.

  2. tbozzio says:

    I too feel that you have entirely missed the point. It’s the best release that I’ve listened to this far into 2009.

  3. tbozzio says:

    Also, I see that Moby’s new offering has garnered a 96/100. Moby?

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