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Reverberating sub bass kicks in so loud that the overhead speakers uncontrollably buzz. Low blue lights and heavy smoke fill the stage, and when Poliça‘s Channey Leaneagh walks out, her tiny frame is barely visible. Her new bright, blonde bob allows us to follow her across the stage to a table of vocal processors, and she starts to sing. Her voice alternates between alien and angelic. The heavy synchronicity of double drummers perched high on their pedestals behind Channey and co-writing bass player Chris Bierden is theatrical in the misty light.
During Lime Habit, the first single off their current album, the drums drop out and the synths take over in a break down that feels timeless. The interplay between rhythm and melody is chaotic as they skate around each other. Hanging vocal delays create discordant harmonies over the progressions played on bass and pads, darkening the sweetness of their songs. The ability to play something pretty and then subtly infiltrate it with sadness is a unique quality of theirs. A detuned synth line makes the sound darker still, and strobe lights flash. Channey starts to move to the flow of the music. More people begin to stream in.
And out. And back in, balancing drinks, cheers-ing and waving to each other across the room. The Joan Sutherland Theatre at Sydney Opera House starts to feel more like a (very clean and comfortable) buzzing underground club. People are standing, swaying, talking and drinking, and although we’re not at the 1500 seat capacity, the room is filling up. The vibe, although distracting, suits the fluidity of the music and Channey’s twirling on stage.
“Someone even unscrewed the lid to my water bottle, so I have literally had to do nothing since I’ve been here… We’ve come so far for this. Thanks for being such a nice crowd,” says Channey. She doesn’t seem to mind the ruckus.
They throw Lay Your Cards Out into the set, taken from Give You The Ghost, the last album that they toured to Oz. More torsos become upright and they sway along. Icy lead lines lift out of syncopated drum patterns, and echoes and delays seep into each other. The songs start to unfold over you rather than lock your attention from start to finish. When they come back for an encore, punchy synths sound like horns and they end their set with a hint of unexpected disco.