Sunday, 28 February 2010

Polar Bear – Peepers [Leaf]

The Seb Rochford led outfit Polar Bear are back again, this time on Leaf with their fourth album ‘Peepers’, which see them keeping the same general band dynamic of Seb Rochford on drums, Leafcutter John on electronics, Pete Wareham and Mark Lockheart duelling on sax while Tom Herbert keeps the bass rolling. But as always they look to keep their sound progressing and taking different directions. With their last album, the s/t ‘Polar Bear’ they branched out into sprawling jazz jams and the Mercury nominated ‘Held On The Tips Of Fingers’ before it was more of a dynamic beast. ‘Peepers’ sees the band at their most raw: they’ve gone for a really live sound this time. They always had an organic, live feel of a full band working as one in a single space. But now that dynamic is really brought to the fore.

The opening track ‘Happy For You’ welcomes you in with super bright and upbeat song writing, with bass lines bouncing off guitars and sax in a joyous outburst. ‘Bap Bap Bap’ follows on a similar tip, if not slightly more subdued with a Balkan skank feel to it. The abrasively disjointed ‘Drunken Pharoah’ see Leafcutter John’s crunching electronics take the stage and play off the tight harmonized sax stabs and lilting percussion to great effect, its an unpredictable number but it shines in its own freaked out way.

Things calm down a bit for the beautifully atmospheric ‘The Love Didn’t Go Anywhere’ with its gently building reverberating guitars and emotional sax lines that go from melancholy melodies to heartstring pulling fluttering and back again with ease. It’s a romantic sounding song with the classy feel of a smoky bar room and a well cut suit. ‘A New Morning Will Come’ (see video bellow) picks up the mood a little from the lonely to hopeful with teasing drones that melodies float out of and bumping beats that stay subtle yet driving all at once. The interplay between sax’s here is sublime, you get lost in the harmonies as they progress and flow out of the drones. It’s an undoubted highlight.

Title track ‘Peepers’ really gets under your skin, you’ll find yourself humming its folk-funk melodies, no idea how folk-funk is possible but Polar Bear make it so by being ultra funky with acoustic instruments and a really human organic sound. There influences come out in subtle ways, you can’t quite pin point where one idea comes from or how they manage to fit together but they combine to make a unique sound that’s a joy to listen to.

‘Bump’ and ‘Scream’ come out of the gates like a maniac before the brilliantly upbeat ‘I Hope Every Day Is A Happy New Year’, unfurls itself with firework noises and an unhinged jollity that breaks down into an off-centre broken lilt full of passion and tension before the party sounds feed there way back in through the discord.

The gentle almost bosanova shuffle beats of ‘I Want To Believe Everything’ offset some beautiful mood setting tones from the sax and double bass. The reverberation on these elements really brings it together and gives it a spaced out feel. The disconcerting vocal loops of ‘Finding Our Feat’ meet somewhere between the Middle Eastern sounds of someone like Muslim Gauze and Polar Bear’s own unique sound and when they really set in they become more meditational than disturbing. The closing track ‘All Here’ takes us down a smoother route with a romantic end of night slow dance theme to it.

‘Peepers’ sees Polar Bear in top form, they’ve come back with an album that is just as assessable as ‘Held On The Tips Of Fingers’ yet altogether a different beast. The performances gel brilliantly; when each musician takes the lead the others work perfectly with them before they all melt back into one singular theme. The live vibe rally gives ‘Peepers’ a vibrant atmosphere. It’s a dynamic and diverse album taking in many moods and sounds, which will keep you coming back for more where you’ll find new layers to explore with each listen.

Polar Bear - A New Morning Will Come from Leaf Label on Vimeo.

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