By Lino Fernandez
Musical collaborations between artists separated by geographical challenges aren’t something new. In the early 2000s, Ben Gibbard and producer Jimmy Tamborello created a masterpiece as The Postal Service by using snail mail to send digital audio tapes to each other because of conflicting schedules. The debut album by Minneapolis-based electronic quintet POLIÇA and European orchestral collective s t a r g a z e was created over the course of 18th months through emails, mp3s, video-conferencing, and the occasional in-person meeting. They may have been separated by an ocean, but in this modern age, technology has gifted us another great album that sounds like these musicians have been playing and writing music together for years.
Opening track “Fake Like” immediately draws you in with its electro-tinged drums, synth bass, plucked strings, and vocalist Channy Leaneagh’s effortlessly beautiful voice. Soon enough, subtle bowed strings come in followed by tasteful horns weighing in by the time the chorus hits. A brief chaotic orchestral instrumental transitions into the next song “Marrow” and we’re treated to Leaneagh’s vocals fed through a distortion effect. A driving, almost tribal rhythm drives the song into tension and melancholy. Lead single “How Is This Happening” was written the day after President Trump was elected in 2016. The song clocks in at just over 10-minutes, a pretty daring move considering it was the first song you’d hear before the album dropped. It’s an effective statement and voice for how a lot of people may feel about the current political climate. Haunting strings and percussion with echo delays create a swirling mood of uneasiness.
POLIÇA and s t a r g a z e have a string of U.S. dates together this month in support of Music for the Long Emergency. Expect to witness some jaw-dropping beauty in the form of a small orchestra and electronic flourishes melded together by emotionally-charged vocals. It’s kind of ironic that an album that could only have been created in this digital age will most likely sound even more beautiful from the acoustics only these old theaters were designed to produce.
Rating: strings, horns, and electronic beats