The album art for Polyenso's Pure in the Plastic


Pure in the Plastic

On their sophomore record, Polyenso feel like the first band since Glass Animals to lay claim the electronic alt-R&B pop throne that Alt-J has. Pure in the Plastic is extraordinary.

From the opening track, it’s clear that Polyenso’s Pure in the Plastic is different. While the comparisons to Alt-J and Glass Animals are right, particularly if you’re considering the level of pure invention taking place throughout the record, Polyenso is a band purely rooted in the tradition of Radiohead’s Kid A. They’re a rock band looking to electronic music to see what sort of directions the genre might go in the future.

Take Not My Real Life, for example: mixing jazz and electronics with an Alt-J-inspired guitar riff yields a brilliant opening riff and movement that kicks off the song into a high-energy territory, despite the fact that almost all of the band’s competitors have veered off into lazy lethargy at this point.

It’s also a great comparison back to Radiohead: this is clearly a rock track, imbued with all sorts of other genres and surprising in influences that take the song in unusual directions.

If the rest of the alt-electronic, contemporary R&B genre is becoming a glorified echo chamber, Polyenso is a fresh take on it. The vocal work throughout is stupendous, but unlike their competitors, Polyenso never get stuck in a rut and focus on the vocals exclusively. They always serve the songs.

It’s this sort of exploration that litters the album. /// (A Pool Worth Diving In) has all the hallmarks of the prototypical contemporary R&B song, but it’s secondary influences — like jazz and trip hop — elevate the song to a new level that’s beyond what one might typically associate with the genre.

I’ll circle it back to Radiohead one last time, because /// (A Pool Worth Diving In) captures exactly what made Kid A so great in its bridge: Polyenso uses vocals as another instrument, hitting each note quickly with the force of staccato, repeating them until the singer is nearly breathless. It’s a beautiful moment that, at least for me, serves as the high point of the song.

As a sophomore album, Pure in the Plastic is anything but a slump. It’s clearly the band’s superior record; they’ve come into their own. But it’s also significant for the genre. It’s rare that it feels like there’s space for another band in a well-established, typical genre, but Polyenso has earned themselves a seat at the table. I hope everybody else takes notice. From my understanding, the lead single is I.W.W.I.T.I.W.