Singer Channy Leaneagh and producer Ryan Olson, both formerly of GAYNGS, recently teamed up for a new project, Poliça, whose debut hit stores this Valentine’s Day. A sultry echo chamber of electronic fusion, Give You the Ghost is at once nostalgic for a brand of white-girl 90s R&B ala Sarah McLachlan yet doused in a warped electronic production that has become fairly standard these days. A robotic, Blade Runner interpretation of Sarah McLachlan, translated into puddling pop? Pretty much.
Aptly named, Give You the Ghost features Channy and her see-through alter ego, whose voice chases her through each track with a resounding, disembodied echo. The ghost of Channy apparently lives inside the throat of the living. Woven together, the two voices read as one, yet what each is saying is constantly muddied by the presence of the other. The repeated voices far from strengthen each lyric. Instead, they push each line back into the mist.
More than the echo alone, Channy’s twisted intonations tear each phrase apart, turning each line into hieroglyphic approximations of poetry that enter your ears multiple times before the words actually break through. Her voice hits a verbal wall many times, sounding like a suppressed “auh,” caught in her throat, pulling back the high notes in a very throw-back, McLachlan-esque way. Yet each lyric is somehow inherently beautiful – even if the same sounds play out over and over again in each song. It’s almost strange to realize that different words are being used in each track, so overpowering is the simple cadence of each string of syllables.
Yet as each repeats (for once, often-repeated phrases – far beyond the usual chorus – seem purposeful), their unique words and meanings start to break out of the haze. My favorite track, “Lay Your Cards Out,” drifts between intelligible and unintelligible lyrics, singing sweet enough that it’s hard to care as a percussion section tinged with tribal elements and a sort of African rain stick, shower-down feel keeps the beat behind the waterfall. Bon Iver’s Mike Noyce briefly adds his voice to the layered (barely) human noises in this track and “Wandering Star.”
“Violent Games” strays from the overall vaguely tribal feel of the percussion to dig in with a heavy metal-ish edge. The ominous strain of some impending something-or-other that pervades the album sinks in more dangerously here, turning the horizon dark. Speaking of, “Dark Star,” conversely, is a strong pop song that feeds far more from the 80s than the jungle or darkness, a bit of Janet Jackson ala “What Have You Done For Me Lately” creeping in to the rhythm (though the “not my child” lyrics might be a bit more Michael).
Getting sucked into Poliça’s echo chamber is, ultimately, not an unpleasant experience. But caught between an abundance of competing voices, hard-to-discern lyrics, and only subtly shifting compositions, Give You the Ghost lacks a real strong point. The journey is pleasant, but it’s not a destination you’re likely to remember. Still, for a mellow night in with a touch of glitter, Poliça’s Give You the Ghost may be the perfect companion.