For the past decade, Polvo has chiefly existed as one of those quintessential indie bands most regular folks have never actually heard. Like fellow fabled ’90s pillars Slint and Chavez, Polvo is commonly credited for doing something important in its day, though good luck trying to get the word on exactly what from anyone other than the sporadic superfan.
Fortunately, the North Carolina quartet has returned (well, primary trio Ash Bowie, Dave Brylawski and Steve Popson, and a new drummer) with all the answers—spread across its first new release in 12 years, In Prism, as useful an entry point to the group as celebrated albums Today’s Active Lifestyles (1993) and Exploded Drawing (1996). On forceful rockers like “Beggar’s Bowl” and “Right the Relation” and wandering dreamscapes such as “A Link in the Chain” and “Dream Residue/Work,” Polvo reclaims the peculiar tunings, chiming two-guitar interplay and fanciful lyrics of its youth—elements that simultaneously championed loose slacker and precise math principles, incongruous as those might seem.
If you only ever hear one Polvo song, make it eight-minute In Prism centerpiece “Lucia.” Haunting and elegant at the start, it takes a hair-pin tempo turn around the 2:20 mark and—voilà—it’s damn near the best foot-to-the-pedal drive song ever. “I thought you were gone!” Bowie cries out at the height of it all. So glad Polvo no longer is.