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Polaris! - Polaris!

Iglu - 1997

Michael Panontin
"Amazing...a completely gorgeous, gorgeous band," is how Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet's Brian Connelly once described Polaris!. And with such high-level accolades, it really is hard to fathom just how these talented musicians could seemingly disappear through the cracks of time.

The Ottawa quartet got their start sometime in the early months of 1995 when guitarist and one-time Gluetone Paul Hogan teamed up with his old buddies Pat Lawlor (guitar), Mark McGreevy (bass) and Rob Porter (drums) with the intention of recreating the kind of instrumental music Hogan enjoyed as a child. The boys were ready to twang by the end of the year, making their live debut in Wakefield, Quebec with funk-punks and fellow Ottawans Furnaceface.

In 1997, with the four-song Spaciba, Da Svidania EP in the shops (courageously issued on seven-inch clear pink vinyl long after the death knell had sounded for that recently resurrected format), Polaris! entered Sound of One Hand Studios to record the bulk of the tracks that would make up this self-titled CD. Polaris! is an instrumental lover's dream, due in no small part I suppose to its adherence to more traditional production techniques - bass and drum levels down, guitars front and centre. This approach seems to work best on the more revved-up tracks, like the amazing 'Strontium 90' and the aptly titled 'Psychotic Rocket', which seem to gallop along with their frantic guitars and quasi-rockabilly backbeats. When things settle down a bit, as on the more Shadows-influenced 'Hypnovista', the results are equally riveting. Add to this a well-chosen cover of France Gall's 'N'ecoute pas les idoles', flecked with Don Cummings' lithe organ touches, and Polaris! should surely sate even the most jaded eardrums.

Polaris!'s music dovetailed nicely with the 1990s resurgence of surf music, thanks in part to Quentin Tarantino's usage of Dick Dale and the Deltones' iconic 'Misirlou' during the opening credits of Pulp Fiction. In fact the band actually shared stages with fellow Canuck surfophiles Huevos Rancheros, Phono-Comb and Atomic 7, in addition to bands like Laika and the Cosmonauts and of course the great Dale himself. But somehow the eighteen instrumentals on Polaris! managed to get a bit lost in all that excitement. Even today, with discarded CDs now reaching the ceilings in the thrift shops, this will probably be quite a tough one to track down.

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