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Polica @ Union Transfer (Again).

November 7, 2013

Polica (3 of 19)Text by Kyle Bagenstose. Images by Grace Dickinson.

Beautiful waves of music. That’s what filled the space when the Minneapolis-based synthpop outfit Polica hit the stage at Union Transfer on Tuesday night.

The band’s acoustic signature is the echoing, floating, auto-tuned vocals of lead singer Channy Leaneagh. And although the synthetic technique is often used to cover an artist’s vocal imperfections, it instead works perfectly for Polica’s sound. From the moment the band took the blue-lit stage (with a simple “Hello Philly” from Leaneagh), until the last lyric of the night, the singer’s vocals drifted out over the space and captivated the audience.

However, the performance was far from one-dimensional. Polica utilizes a pair of drummers in Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson, as well as bassist Chris Bierden, who provide a rolling, building energy to the music.

The dynamic was well on display in the fourth song of the set, fan favorite “Amongster,” as a simple cymbal beat and hushed echoes built into a full-on acoustic waterfall of dual rolling drums and soaring vocals. The sound had most of the audience at least head bopping, if not rhythmically dancing to the music.

After finishing the song, Leaneagh showed a little love for the city, explaining that Polica was the first band to ever play Union Transfer (opening for Clap Your Hands Say Yeah on Sep. 21, 2011.)

“We were the first to play, even if we weren’t the most important,” she joked. “I like Philly… good people, good city, and good to be back.”

As the set continued, the band continued to layer in surprising elements. While the cascading sound of synths were computer generated, Ivascu and Christopherson would occasionally make use of a wood block or maraca, and make improvisational changes to the music using digital equipment attached to their kits.

Leaneagh also showed off a diverse stage presence. In songs like the ultra-danceable “Chain my Name,” the opening track on the band’s new album Shulamith, Leaneagh floated around a healthy-sized stage space, grooving to the song’s electronic beeps and layered drum beats. During the more contemplative songs, she stood fixed to the microphone stand, her expression alternating from stoic to emotional as a mixture of red, white, and blue lights played across her face.

The band tied the set together nicely with a three-song encore. Leaneagh and Bierden first took the stage alone for a song, with the drummers eventually sneaking to their kits to launch back into the set. Polica closed things off with the mellow “Matty” from their new album, before leaving the stage to the appreciative applause of a satisfied audience.

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