Music For The Long Emergency is the debut collaborative album by Minneapolis-based electronic quintet POLIÇA and Berlin’s orchestral collective s t a r g a z e.
Introduced via the Liquid Music project run by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra in Minnesota, POLIÇA and s t a r g a z e first met in Berlin in 2016 in s t a r g a z e conductor André de Ridder’s living room. The process continued as an 18-month long “ping pong” match as the bands exchanged ideas and music over email. Both were adamant that whatever they created “not just be POLIÇA songs with s t a r g a z e pasted on top,” as POLIÇA vocalist Channy Leaneagh put it, and they consider the end result to be the most adventurous and forward-thinking music either group has made to date.
The record absolutely feels like an adventure to listen to. It is emotive and affecting, pushing and pulling at the atmosphere as the tracks swell high and dive low, taking you the listener with them.
Opener ‘Fake Like‘ is the musical equivalent of skimming pebbles across a clear lake. It sounds clean, hopeful, filled with strings, keys and heartfelt vocals. Next, ‘Marrow‘ is vibrating, dark and theatrical, like the uneasy soundtrack to a sinister musical. By the time we’re five tracks in, ‘Cursed‘ sounds like running from something at midnight; it is breathless, fast, spiky, and distorted. It is vicious yet energising, maybe even panic provoking. I listen to music through feelings and what the sounds evoke in my imagination or emotion. I can’t make out lyrics because I’ve stood next to too many speakers over the years, but Leaneagh says the tensions in this album are expressed musically as well as lyrically:
“Everybody in s t a r g a z e and POLIÇA is a little older. I grew up in a time in America that was before the internet, in a time when the schools in America were the least segregated that they’d ever been. In a time when we had turned towards progress after the era of Jim Crow, and lynching, and the Ku Klux Klan. And we’re back in that right now in America. And in a lot of places in Europe too. We had our hands on progress and then it flipped. So the songs deal with that, lyrically, and musically they do too — with the idea that we’re still human beings and we’re trying to find happiness and the love of our lives, or a career to be happy about, but then we’re also trying to find world peace and end racism.”
So the paradoxes in the sound of this record, in its atmosphere, are representative of the wider world: “It’s about those contradictions in life,” Leaneagh says. “How you can be going through tragedy, never-ending wars, but you still also are dealing with human relationships and love and romantic troubles.”
The penultimate track, ‘How is this Happening‘, stretches out to 10:07. It summons a strong sense of foreboding, with no whisper of light to hook onto. At seven minutes the sound lifts, with hopeful brass emerging from the sticky fog, but at nine minutes you’re plunged down once more.
Closing the record, ‘Music for the Long Emergency‘ is a bridge over the flattening depression you’ve just been left in. It soars with crescendo, warms with celestial vocals, and while it crackles with static and doom part way through, it returns to a sense of peace.
I found this album impressively experimental, and at times magical and elevating. Yet it is also experientially challenging and at times I wanted it to stop. But I guess that’s just like life – and Music For The Long Emergency is an album about life.
Music For The Long Emergency is out now on Transgressive.