Polara | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Plenty of bands have discovered the possibilities of primitive keyboards--Farfisas, Moogs, Wurlitzers. What distinguishes Polara, a young quartet from Minneapolis, is how they incorporate organ and synthesizer decay into blatantly old-fashioned pop tunes. Fronted by Ed Ackerson, perhaps best known for leading the 27 Various, Polara deliver irresistible hooks that follow courses previously charted by Big Star and Game Theory's Scott Miller. In his slightly nasal, partly breathy warble Ackerson peels off an endless succession of sweetly ingratiating melodies that take all sorts of unexpected directions. His songwriting acumen alone would warrant plenty of praise, but Polara set his tunes within a terrific soundscape. The sweet harmonies of keyboardist/guitarist Jennifer Jurgens and the oddly propulsive rhythms of drummer Matt Wilson (formerly a guitarist in Trip Shakespeare) form a tremulous wall of unusual textures that drift between out-and-out psychedelia, wiggy space drones, delicate arpeggios, imminently explosive ambient waves, and even a power chord or two. What's more, neither the hooks nor the weird sonic flourishes ever take precedence or descend to the level of gimmickry; they coalesce organically. Friday, 10 PM, Empty Bottle, 1035 N. Western; 276-3600.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Paul Owen.

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