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Polmo Polpo - Like Hearts Swelling

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Artist: Polmo Polpo

Album: Like Hearts Swelling

Label: Constellation

Review date: Sep. 25, 2003

"The more cerebral end of home-listening electronica suffers from stylistic fragmentation, overproduction (there are just too many 'pretty good' records being made), and the absence of a truly startling new sound (even a Next Medium-Sized Thing would be a blessing at this point)."
- Simon Reynolds, review of LFO’s “Stealth” for the Observer Music Monthly, 2003

When a critic who railed against ‘home-listening electronica’ in its mid-90s heyday (see Reynolds’ Generation Ecstasy) announces without a trace of self-congratulation that the genre has reached the end of the road, things must be pretty desperate. Polmo Polpo’s Like Hearts Swelling might not provide the radical break that can save bedroom electronica, but its surprisingly ample charms might be enough to provide a quick jumpstart.

Certain albums lend themselves well to cocooning activities. Crawling underneath the covers of your bed with the Sunday paper, for example, is an experience much enhanced by appropriately gauzy and fluffy instrumental music. The latest album from Polmo Polpo, a.k.a. Toronto-based producer Sandro Perri, whose previous output consisted of a series of 12”s collected on CD last year by Montreal’s Alien8 Records, ventures far beyond the mocha latte haze of everyday indietronica. Like Hearts Swelling is a different breed of cocooning music – the kind that clings at your skin like an inflatable rubber fetish suit.

Like Hearts Swelling is not beat-driven, relying instead on slide guitars, cellos and a few tastefully deployed synths. Some might say it isn’t connected to dance music at all, but tracks like the eleven minute “Layla”-on-ecstasy epic “Requiem For A Fox” further confuse the issue. In fact, Like Hearts Swelling’s combination of white noise, acoustic instruments and ghostly bass rumbling make such distinctions wholly superfluous, effectively jamming your head up your ass and throwing you into a slow-moving river. Perri’s aural palette is far wider than that of his contemporaries – he seems to have discovered the cure for the ills of both ambient and noise musics. Where one lacks crispness and the other eschews tranquility, Perri’s work manages to bridge the two extremes with ease. It’s not like there’s no groove, either: in lieu of a clearly articulated beat, rhythm becomes an unscratchable and pervasive itch within the music that can’t be danced or analyzed away. The grinding string drone of “Farewell”; the Velvets-y doorhinge scraping of “Like Hearts Swelling”, the undulating bass that shadows the whole mélange - the mind/body divide is fucked beyond repair, with everything once again up for grabs.

By Dave Morris

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