Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part our Song of the Day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s featured selection, chosen by Morning Show host John Richards, is “Beggars Bowl” by Polvo from the 2009 album In Prism on Merge Records.
Although they’ve never wanted to take the credit, most people who use the term “math-rock” credit Chapel Hill quartet Polvo as its creator. Formed way the hell back in 1990, Polvo was primarily the brain child of Ash Bowie (Helium) and Dave Brylowski, musically like-minded college buddies. The duo joined with bassist Steve Popson and drummer Eddie Watkins to release their first two albums, Cor-Crane Secret and Today’s Active Lifestyles on Mac McCaughan’s (Superchunk) then fetal Merge Records.
Reuniting (with new drummer Brian Quast of Regraped and the Cherry Valence) to play 2008’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, Polvo returns with In Prism, marking their return to recording music together after over twelve years of amicable separation. The term “math rock” to me has never really made much sense: In my head math is the boring uncle of predictability; 2+2 = 4… ALWAYS, but a band like Polvo, known for its unpredictable guitar driven noisiness, jacked time signatures and overall unrefined sound, seems to fly in the face of anything explained upon a chalkboard. Fluctuating between psychedelia and post-rock, “Beggar’s Bowl” grips your attention with the classic incongruence of their youth — forceful rhythms magnetically fused together with tinny, exposed guitars ala Steve Albini (Shellac, Big Black).
Maybe it’s just my distaste for math and the associated remnants of my youth it conjures up, but the last thing I want to equate music like Don Caballero, Battles and Polvo to is BS like carrying the one, integers, decimal points and law. This is music, people. It stabs you in the heart, then kicks you in the shin. Call it what you will but all your Excel knowledge ain’t worth a hill of beans in the real world of human emotion. You can keep it.
According to their MySpace page, the band reportedly “isn’t planning too far ahead,” but they are listing a few scattered shows on the East Coast and in the Midwest. No NW dates are listed as of yet — sorry — but keep your fingers crossed while you kick it old school with Polvo’s “Tilebreaker” from 1993’s Today’s Active Lifestyles: