Review Summary: 'In Prism' does not reach the heights of previous Polvo records, but it does present us with a new take on the Polvo sound.
Polvo made their mark in the '90s music scene by combining the textures associated with math rock into a more mainstream sound. The most notable issue with their earlier records was how across the board the various songs were. Polvo would play a track that echoed Nirvana and then immediately the next track would vamp on middle eastern tones. Still, Polvo always managed to remain a rock band. The guitars were always at the forefront and it was interesting to hear what sounds or genres the group would work with next. After the disappointing 'Shapes' Polvo disappeared seemingly to concentrate on other projects. 'In Prism' marks their first record in a handful of years and with time restraint has become the one word that defines the new Polvo.
Polvo's reunion was a welcomed one at first, but as time has gone by many have criticized the group for their new material. Many felt the group's reunion was simply an attempt to cash in on old memories (How a group with as small a fan base as Polvo's can do this is beyond me.) Credibility issues aside Polvo's 'In Prism' was met with some reluctance from old and new fans alike. 'Beggar's Bowl' the album's first single and weakest track did nothing to soothe these concerns with it's almost nu-metal style guitar riffs. Luckily the group has managed to make a record that redefines the group's old sound and still remains interesting.
'In Prism' is a lot more subdued than any other Polvo record. 'City Birds' is a great example of the focus being on hypnotic guitar patterns rather than the tour de force of guitar theatrics on 'Exploded Drawing'. Polvo also has seemingly begun to embrace far more lengthy tracks. Only one track on 'In Prism' dips below five minutes. If one was to look for a record to compare 'In Prism' to 'Sonic Nurse' is the clear answer. Like Sonic Youth, Polvo have moved away from their more experimental roots and turned their compositions into extended pieces focusing on texture and harmony. 'Lucia' the supposed centerpiece fully demonstrate this. Beginning with a meandering guitar line it slowly shifts through a barrage of melodies before erupting into a more typically styled Polvo song. New drummer Brian Quast is featured predominately edging the band into more progressively technical realms. This new found love for more lengthy tracks as well as a more refined sound does prevent 'In Prism' from fully grasping the strength of the other Polvo records. The band is far more polished and as such has lost some of the lo-fi brilliance their earlier career was based on. Replacing what was essentially a pop foundation with a progressive rock one doesn't make them as endearing as they once were. Still, Polvo has managed to make a solid record that while not living up to their previous ones is still a great example of a progression in their sound.
The important thing to note when it comes to 'In Prism' is that as hiatus records go this is one of the best in the last couple years. Polvo has paid tribute to their old sound while also developing it into something new. Most of their peers can't even begin to comprehend that achievement as Polvo continues to release relevant music nearly twenty years after their inception.