On Day One of Eaux Claires Troix — the third annual installment of Justin Vernon’s music and art festival in his hometown of Eau Claire, WI — Minneapolis-based synth-pop group Poliça debuted their collaboration with Berlin-based orchestra stargaze (normally stylized as s t a r g a z e). Eight months later, the two groups decided to release their collaborative project, Music For the Long Emergency.
The idea was spawned the day after President Trump’s election. “How is This Happening,” written by front-woman Channy Leaneagh, works as the core of the record, extolling a feeling of dread that washed over millions of Americans after the news broke. Subsequently, the album is dystopian, eerie and carries an immense sense of urgency. Poliça and stargaze imagine the world as a fragile place, tied together by a single thread with a sharp blade inching closer and closer to cutting the line.
Originally, the tracks on the album were intended for a single live performance. After realizing they had a group of songs they were especially proud of, the groups decided to hit the studio. All of the recording was done in a couple days in Justin Vernon’s Eau Claire studio. Before their January show at Majestic Theatre, Drew Christopherson, drummer for Poliça, talked about the process of combing their work with stargaze’s.
“We kind of had to learn how to make music with people who were used to doing it in a completely different way than we are,” Christopherson said. “That was a little bit of a challenge at first because here are these eight musicians who are used to reading music, writing out charts for their ideas and what not. We don’t read music at all. We just kind of talk about parts and try and play them from memory.”
Spanning 38 minutes over seven tracks, Music for the Long Emergency is an experiment in collaboration. Combining Poliça’s atmospheric synths and heavy percussion with the haunting strings, brass and woodwinds of stargaze, the record stays true to its paranoid landscape.
“I think it was fun for both of us: fun for us to dip our toes in their culture, and fun for them to play in rock clubs with us,” Christopherson said.
Where most songs have instrumentals fit for a solemn walk through an acid rain-filled wasteland, the theme of political outcry is lacking in the first half of the record. Sentiments are peppered in here and there making them seem more impactful than they are, but few calls for change on the songs “Fake Like” and “Speaking of Ghost,” leave the sentiments of action to the instrumentals.
The latter half of Music for the Long Emergency — consisting of two tracks that cover 20 minutes total — is urgent, pulsating, sprawling and frantic. Its title track takes those sentiments of longing for change and folds them in on themselves, compounding the problems, but highlight a glimmer of hope that things will turn out better than they are now.
That’s the beauty of Music for the Long Emergency. It combines worlds that don’t normally collide under an umbrella of surprisingly well-executed songs. Hope and despair are counter-balanced. Sounds from separate worlds collide. However, regardless of how entrancing the soundscape may be, the lyrics don’t consistently support their own weight. Music for the Long Emergency is the first step down an extremely promising path for Poliça.