Merge Records

polvo_siberiaEvery band is still going. Every band has reformed, is having one last go or never split up in the first place. Very few of them, however, are capable of making new music that is worth listening to or even comes close to being as good as when the band were in the prime of their youth. I’m struggling to think of ANY band that has managed to make an album that is better than their initial output, apart from Polvo.

Polvo formed in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1990 and made a string of albums for Merge and Touch And Go Records that were awash with warped and wobbly guitar pop (people often tried to box them off in the math rock bracket, but that didn’t really fit) and addictive song-writing. Their sound was unpredictable and willingly obtuse (according to their Wikipedia page “ the band’s guitarists were often accused of failing to play with correctly tuned guitars” haha!) and they were, alongside the likes of Brainiac and Girls Against Boys, trailblazers in the 90s wave of American indie rock.

Having originally disbanded in 1998, the band reformed in 2009 and re-signed to Merge Records for the release of the excellent ‘In Prism’ album and a handful of shows. Nothing could have prepared us for the sheer quality of latest album ‘Siberia’ though. Bands this long in the tooth should not be able to craft songs of this superior quality. No exaggeration, every song on here is superb. At eight songs, it’s short, but there’s no excess fat, no filler, no dull moments, just eight songs brimming with ideas and mesmerizing melodies. Opener ‘Total Immersion’ sets the scene nicely, a flow with off-kilter rhythms, and obtuse guitar, but delivered, like every song on this album, with energy and melodies that you will remember. There are no highlights as such because every song is equally a winner, although ‘Ancient Grains’ with its mystic, eastern feel and dreamy sonic landscapes never fails to hit the mark and delves into vocalist and guitarists Ash Bowie and Dave Brylawski’s love to Asian music.

‘Blue Is Loss’ is another class song. Moving and pulsating, it constantly builds momentum and melody. “How did my dreams get so clean…” croons Bowie as the band shimmer around him.

Beautifully recorded, written and executed, ‘Siberia’ is without doubt my album of the year. Not bad for a band that originally split up over fifteen years ago.

James Sherry