POLVO: LIVE REVIEW
Nerdy fragmented college rock was alive and kicking last night in Toronto, as Chapel Hill notables, Polvo headlined a triple bill of chaos, noise and dissonance, including local groups, Secret Agent and Pecola. The opening band, Secret Agent, was the most melodic and the least professional of the performers on stage. For the majority of their short set, both the guitar and bass player faced their drummer creating these adventureous, though unmemorable instrumental passages, interupted by short periods of silence that signaled the audience to lightly applaud. Come on guys work on some stage presence. It looked more like a rehearsal than a club date. When Secret Agent did acknowledge the crowd, they (like the next two bands) mumbled incoherently into their mikes, leaving the bulk of the crowd wondering what they said.
Next up was the grueling obnoxious sounds of Pecola. This quartet's sound is based on the annoying mix of fragmented guitar plucking and high pitched twin vocals that simultaneously visit the neighbourhoods of both the caterwaul and the rumble. Each song began quietly with overlapping guitar elements, that were reminiscent of jazz openings, but like the free(c)form jazz of Anthony Braxton or Albert Ayler, Pecola venture into fields of sound that less melodic and accessible to the human ear. Again sudden silence followed by more mumbling signified the end of a Pecola composition.
Finally, Polvo took the stage and the Lee's Palace crowd, that had been spending the time between bands outside of the club because of the excruciating heat inside, pushed forward to the stage to hear this North Carolina quartet. Beginnings with a couple new songs from their latest release, Exploding Drawing, Polvo impressed the receptive local audience with their well™honed melange of semi(c)sonic guitar doodling, multiple climatic rhythms, cryptic vocals. Most of Polvo songs focus on attitude and emotion rather than a more concrete message. Tempo changes and false starts are so abundant in their performance last night, only the most knowledgeable of Polvo's fans knew when the appropriate applause was required. Many times the group merged older songs from their debut Todays Active Lifestyles with newer material. Song highlights include the melodic Seam(c)like "Fast Canoe" and the Mission of Burma(c)inspired angerathon "Features of Forgiveness". For group with little local airplay, including the specialized campus radio stations, Polvo attracted a good(c)sized audience based in part on name recognition and their musical oeuvre. But many in the large crowd were attracted to the gig by the reputations of both Polvo's home scene of Chapel Hill and their current record label, Touch and Go. Most fans did not go home disappointed. - Chris Burland