“All great changes are preceded by chaos,” declared Deepak Chopra, one of America’s more infamous physicians/public speakers.
The phrase is wholly applicable to evolution in general, but possibly none more poignantly than when describing Polyenso‘s three-year journey thus far. Other than most recently ditching the name Oceana, they’ve broken up, reunited, released the highly-acclaimed indie rock EP Clean Head, added and shedded band members with alarming regularity, all before funding their debut as Polyenso, One Big Particular Loop (OBPL), on Kickstarter.
Oh, and let’s not forget the radical genre change the band undertook – having started off as a bland atmospheric metalcore band, switching tracks to broody post-hardcore, reuniting as a jangly, mathy indie rock band and now, re-entering the fray as a densely layered indie/jazz/folk amalgam of sorts.
So, a busy three years then. By all signs and intent, fans would be forgiven for expecting OBPL to be a right mess. After all, it was with bated breath that fans watched as the band – now made up of Denny Agosto, Kolby Crider, Alec Prorock, Alexander Schultz and Brennan Taulbee – finally re-entered the spotlight with a new sound, an almost unrecognizable line-up and the promise of songs that, in their own words, were being continually altered due to their exacting standards.
Any preconceived thoughts I harbored of a less than fruitful and pleasurable album dissipated completely just a minute into title track “((O.B.P.L.” It serves as a sampler of what’s to be expected for the entire album, melding bits and pieces of the album’s distinct and varied influences into one mouth-watering appetizer; looping beats, electronic samples, seductive trumpet lines and lead singer Taulbee’s mellower croon being the elements that particularly stood out during my first listen.
“Dog Radio” was the first track Polyenso wrote for OBPL and according to the band, it almost didn’t make the album. It would’ve been a crying shame had it been put aside, simply because it’s an outstanding track; densely layered with aural texture, it’s at once seductive, self-aware and brimming with emotion. In fact, it’s the wondrous strata of melodies and ambient sound that makes the album truly shine. Each and every instrument seems to have been tracked with the intent of being fused into a seamless experience. There are no self-indulgent guitar solos or endless freeform jazz drumming. The album is an exercise in restraint and teamwork, with the focus being the “sound” Polyenso has striven toward for the better part of the past three years.
Songs such as “Push” and “Falling In Rain” possess solid hooks and the same remarkable instrumentation, the latter really allowing the entire band to shine on their respective instruments; when the trumpet melodies leap to the forefront of the track, you’re irretrievably hooked – I know I was. “Pocket Soul” is a real treat and Polyenso’s love for Wilco is represented well here. In fact, you hear smatterings of the band’s musical influences throughout the entirety of OBPL. Taulbee’s vocal deliveries bear more than a passing resemblance to Radiohead‘s Thom Yorke, while homages to artists such as Elliot Smith and R.E.M. also abound.
“Cherry Life” is by and large the most straightforward track on the album, both in structure and instrumentation. With a surprisingly poppy hook and guitar lick, it’s best described as biting into a cherry pie – simple, instant gratification and a whole load of fun as well. “Always Ending In You” though, is one of the tracks that continues to amaze me. There’s so much going on at any one time during the song, yet it comes off as incredibly sincere and evenly balanced.
This is why OBPL is destined to become a hallmark album – if not for the genre, then at least for any band looking to evolve. There’s a plethora of influences and emotions on display in every aspect of the album, yet Polyenso doesn’t parade the decision to include trumpets, for example, on every track, ’cause it sounds cool. Rather, they’ve spent time refining and combing through each and every song with a perfectionist’s eye and a creator’s love. And it shows in the organic soundscapes they’ve created on their debut – nothing sounds forced or contrived.
Even if you were a fan of Polyenso’s earlier work as Oceana, you should give OBPL a listen – if not for yourself, then at least to bear witness to how chaos and change can be the catalysts to near-perfection.