Polyrhythmics: Libra Stripes

polyrhythmics-libra-coverWell here’s an experience I haven’t had in ages. Washing dishes the other night, and I didn’t want to listen to any of the things I had queued up for review on this blog. So I just flip on the tiny radio we’ve got behind the sink and start fiddling around on the FM band looking for something new and unfamiliar. Down at the bottom end of the dial, I feel at first like I’ve tuned into some Latino station, which fits the mood, so I go with it. As time goes on, I realize I’m dancing to a great song and I feel like I must be listening to some Caribbean music or Afropop or something. So right before the song ends I realize I live in a magic age and have a device in my pocket that will listen to the music and tell me what it is. Again, convinced this is an equatorial pop group of some kind, I proclaim that wherever this band is playing on my birthday this year, that’s where I want to be. Well turns out the band’s from right here in Seattle (and I was probably just dialed into KEXP) because I had been listening to Polyrhythmics’ “Chingador.”

And the rest is history. I downloaded this on Xbox Music and remain a huge fan. An eight-piece, the band augments guitar, drums and bass with keys and several horns and sometimes flute). I would call them World-influenced funk, but that’s because I’m an Ugly American and don’t really do a good job of differentiating between different parts of the non-U.S. “World.”

Suffice it to say, the beats are deliciously complex yet danceable. The band’s prime skills are in laying down the beat and writing a killer head on top of it. They pass the solos around like any funk band, but that’s not what keeps me coming back (save those of guitarist Ben Bloom because wow). Instead, what makes Polyrhythmics great are those great heads along with how well they pull them off as a band. They play amazingly tight for three people, much less eight, and they way they layer with each other is pretty much perfect (check out the tasty way they come back from the breakdown in “Retrobotic”).

The collection of songs and their sequencing is just about all you could ask for, too. They hit you with some hard, choppy funk like “Chingador,” but then there are slower grooves like “Snake In The Grass” and “Skin The Fat,” too. There isn’t a song on here I don’t love, though it took me a while with “Moon Cabbage.” And that’s one of my main complaints, that song should not be third. It’s easily the worst song here and is the one with the least pop. Tough one to have in that showcase slot.

The production is excellent, and I can’t wait to see if they can pull it off live at Tractor Tavern on March 29. I strongly recommend you listen to these guys. They’re the early front-runner for my 2014 Clownies.

Mix: “Libra Stripes,” “Chingador,” “Bobo,” “Retrobotic”
– “Pupusa Strut,” “Moon Cabbage,” “Snake In The Grass,” “Skin The Fat,” “Mr. Wasabi Rides Again”
Song Notes: After the jump

  1. Libra Stripes –
  2. Pupusa Strut –
  3. Moon Cabbage – what the fuck is this, easily the worst track on the album, doing third? Definitely spends some time in boring town, but is still full. That’s how good this album is.
  4. Chingador –
  5. Snake In The Grass – slower. One you head back to the blanket for and smooch with your girl before they get you up dancing again.
  6. Bobo – God this is so much fun. Caught myself dancing while waiting for the light to change.
  7. Skin The Fat –
  8. Retrobotic –
  9. Mr. Wasabi Rides Again –

2 thoughts on “Polyrhythmics: Libra Stripes

  1. Pingback: Fat Clown’s Best Albums Of 2013 | fatclown

  2. Pingback: Polyrhythmics: Octagon | fatclown

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