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Review: Polvo | In Prism

Merge (2009)
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  September 9, 2009
3.5 3.5 Stars


All a-bubble over my first listen to In Prism, I took to the Internet, where I learned that the album "is required listening for any bands still using guitars." I was feeling it. Not since their two-disc statement of purpose Exploded Drawing had Polvo sounded so together — and after 13 years of relative hiatus (not counting '97's WZLX-y Shapes), that's no mean feat. Of course, mere seconds was all it took for a friend to sample some of the songs off the Merge site and suggest a revision to the album's status: "required listening for any bands who enjoy Polvo." True enough.

The specific contributions of the Chapel Hill patron saints of busted guitars to the enduring vocabulary of indie rock may be hard to pinpoint, but only because Polvo's influence was more upon the climate. They certainly took the Louisville-scene epics on much more elegant dates (as they did on "Gemini Cusp" or "Fast Canoe" and as they now do on "A Link in the Chain").

But instead of the long abstract laps they used to run, Polvo seem way more settled into their style — at home enough within their songs to do some serious fussing over the details. Little rattlesnake guitar lines keep your eyes on the ground through "Beggar's Bowl"; "The Pedlar" might be a makeover of "Houses of the Holy" to some and the fulfillment of Shapes' promise to others; "A Link in the Chain" may be their finest foray into unattended noise ever. In Prism finds Polvo at their most forwardly sonic. Many of these songs could have come off their pivotal 1994 Celebrate the New Dark Age EP, both in sound and in spirit. More than just a slack reunion, the album marks another turning point in a band who may yet wind up describing a circle.

  Topics: CD Reviews , Polvo, Polvo, Merge
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