These days I’m working under the radar. After leaving Occupy Wall Street in 2012, I got full-time on my novel, finished a complete draft, then started working on songs for Citybilly, my folkie project - acoustic strings and percussion - bringing back my Folk/Country/Jazz influences that fueled my early bands before I put songwriting away and got into performance art and abstraction. Since then my stuff has been mostly electronic-based with the occasional live instrument. The Citybilly songs bring out a more sentimental (not the tacky kind) side of my nature; less edge in the poetry. I was going to call the project Swami Rivers, a name I used back in my early Boston days. Swami Rivers won a music contest held at the Boston Hatch Shell and got to play live on WBCN. Then he went into retirement when the abstract phase began. I retired the name again because the obvious intent of the wordplay on Swanee River can't compete for attention today with the racist nature of that 19th Century song and the turn-of-the-century version. Anyway, Citybilly more accurately describes the music - the product of a city guy who's always loved Country music throughout its century-long recorded history. The acoustic project has been on-and-off for the past few years. We moved out of Manhattan, a two-year process. Then the 2015 primaries. Spent a year working on the Strongman Sad tracks then another three years on the animated vids, my first attempt at stop-frame animation. After they were completed, found an editor, author Alexander Weinstein, and spent a year completing the novel, Swing That Kaddish. Also got three collections of poetry together that one of these days I'll try to get published. It took months of slogging at getting my guitar chops back in play to do the Citybilly tracs and maybe get back to playing live again. That ongoing slog is long and frustrating. It's been years since I worked with guitar as anything other than a songwriting tool and use for an occasional track. So my fingers have lost a lot of their memory on the instrument. I never developed a taste for social media, which keeps my life working in the cave outside the social realm. Haven’t even been checking in on the music sites where my stuff resides. Gotta admit the life of a recluse feels pretty good, though being involved with project prep (the guitar thing) instead of project emersion had been really maddening. Makes chaos with my binary focus wiring - either hyper-focus or fog. The fog feels like death. The downside of ADD/ADHD. One thing I'm hoping to accomplish is to get some promotional discipline. Get my trax on more sites and maybe even attempt to get em heard. My crowded brain seems to lack a marketing department. Aside from the torture of the literary agent guerying, there's some itty bitty news:
FILM FESTIVAL NEWS A version of the Strongman Sadvideos - a compilation of five of them - has been submitted to a bunch of film festivals. It's a long shot because it's my first attempt at animation and I assume the partisan nature of the project is likely to be a deal-killer. We'll see. It was shown at: • World Music & Independent Film Festival - Finalist • IndieFest - Award of Recognition • Toronto Independent Film Festival - Finalist • Global Music Awards - Won a Bronze • NY Lift-Off Film Festival • San Francisco Indie Short Festival • Austin International Art Festival • Montreal Independent Film Festival
—— PRE-2012 NEWS ——
(posted on the old Polarity/1 site)
A RECAP OF THE PAST FEW YEARS Soon after Amy D moved to Boston, Koko Dozo was disbanded. I put the music away and went full time on a novel, Swing That Kaddish which is based on a song of the same name from the Prettier Than You album. In the fall of 2011 I was finishing up the first draft, Occupy Wall Street kicked in at Zuccotti Park, not far from my loft in Tribeca. After checking it out for a couple of weeks, I went full time on the movement and was in Zuccotti every day with my surdo drum trying to put some polyrhythmic thump into the drum circle. After Zuccotti was shut down I got involved with a great team producing an OWS radio show for Pacifica -- radiOWS -- A multi-media, issue-based show with news reportage, commentary, interviews, original music, satirical skits. I was on the organizing team that created Occupy Guitarmy that helped make music a bigger part of street action, though drumming was my main role in the demonstrations and marches. After a couple of years it was time to move on out of the OWS movement. It had a broad vision but its limited focus on strategy and discipline made it impossible to gain traction. But I worked with a bunch of really dedicated and talented people. Most of the political songs I wrote and recorded during that period included playing by OWS members -- rapper, rCyn; sax offender David Intrator; singing by Daniel Baez; acoustic guitar by Goldi; singing and rapping by Chagmion Antoine; and vocals by veteran funkster visiting from France, Scott Allen. Those trax are under the name Pepper Spray Tan on a album called Occupy This! The more far-reaching personal effect of Guitarmy was to get me back into playing guitar more seriously, particularly acoustic. For the past 15 years my guitar-playing appeared occasionally in my tracks in the form of electric funk, crunch and blues licks and in a couple of acoustic tracks on Prettier Than You. The new project -- an album of Americana songs will be acoustic guitar-based which will require some serious homework getting my chops together. Can’t rely on old tricks. I started out as a kid writing protest songs on acoustic before dropping song-form altogether in my 20s and then getting back into groove, my main love since I was little. I’ll be covering that project in detail. For the time being, I've posted a few rough demos under the name Swami Rivers. Also in there that timespan was a full-length score for Battery Dance Company -- Autobiographica (my second full-lengther for them). And Danny Schechter asked me to co-host his radio show for PRN (Progressive Radio Network). We did that for over a year. And in the summer of 2014 I won a song contest for People’s Music Network, a political songwriting organization started by Pete Seeger and others. The winning song was Plunder which was written for Danny’s documentary of the same name about the banking meltdown. It includes vocals and trombone by longtime collaborator DAV.
KOKO DOZO RELEASES NEW EP ON RED STAR RECORDS
FEEL THE ZUZZ! Released on Red Star Digital Music- Label Run By Former New York Dolls Manager, A&R/ Producer Marty ThauCritics are already raving about this Zuzztacular EP!- "Perhaps most importantly, the songs themselves are tuneful little ear-borers, harking back to NYC clubland’s ’80s heyday—these tracks would have killed at Danceteria." - Bruce Tantum, Time Out NY- "And that's the heart of Koko Dozo, a hodgepodge pop entity that's bathed in dance music's more glammy, grimy past and full of the early 80s excess that birthed pop music from its disco father and mother." - Jeff Meltz, The Culture of Me- "Tunes like "Lay That Body Down" and "Bastards in Bazbador" sound amazing on the pavement of the Lower East Side.." - Peter Davis, PaperMag.com
Koko Dozo news and press are on the KOKO DOZO site. Check out their intergalactic newsletter, Space Alien Nation
... AS SEEN ON TV!!
KOKO DOZO song, Boomchi, will be heard in a February 2009 episode of THE L WORD on Showtime.
Jumping Genres Once Again, and Still Shocking Us All REVIEW OF Lisbon's Quorum Ballet Soundtrack "Music From The Other Side"
By Liz Singer
"Polarity/1, the multi-genre artist best known for bold, honest, hard-hitting songs, is releasing a brand new instrumental record titled Music From the Other Side. Fitting to the title, the album consists of smooth, jazzy tracks much different from louder albums like Yankin’ the Food Chain. Polarity/1's music has been incorporated by dance theaters and documentarists, including Danny Schechter's feature-length film documentary 'In Debt We Trust and Battery Dance Company's 26th Annual Downtown Dance Festival last year.
Music From The Other Side is the soundtrack for a dance performance by Lisbon's Quorum Ballet. The Other Side's principal objective is to fuse the style and art of the dance of Lisbon and New York. The work is the collaboration of choreographers Daniel Cardoso, Jonathan Hollander and Thaddeus Davis, artistic directors of Quorum Ballet, Battery Dance Company and Wideman/Davis Dance, respectively. Dark, moody, erotic and aggressive, it explores the theme of oppression, which has always been an issue for the people on both sides of the Atlantic. The piece examines the roles of the different agents: the instigator, the oppressor, the oppressed and the observer.
The most impressive song is the vocals version of "Fulano de Tal," included on the album as a bonus track. Also noteworthy is the exotic, media-infused sound of "Land O' Debbies." The entire albums feels like the fusion of every type of media coming together to blend spooky, unique melodies that echo through every track. What really drives the record, though, is the steady, trance-like beat that proves impossible to ignore.
The music of Polarity/1 is exactly what the name suggests - "conjoined opposites," including the new (cutting-edge electronica, hip-hop and nu-jazz) and the old (roots music of America, including blues, funk, country and early jazz, Brazil (samba, pagode, etc.) and West African groove science)."
As with all of his albums, on ‘Music From the Other Side’ Polarity/1 proves his ability to keep listeners engaged for every song, as they are never quite sure of what to expect next. Just as his name suggests, Polarity/1’s music certainly is composed of “conjoined opposites”; jumping from instrumentals to upbeat drumming, and from rapping to slow, soulful lyrics, Polarity/1 truly is one of a kind.
Polarity/1, the multi-genre artist best known for bold, honest, hard-hitting songs, is re-releasing his hit album, Yankin' the Food Chain, now with re-mastered tracks. Polarity/1's music has been incorporated by dance theaters and documentarists, including Danny Schechter's feature-length film documentary 'In Debt We Trust' and Battery Dance Company's 26th Annual Downtown Dance Festival last year.
Yankin' the Food Chain fuses electronica, acid jazz, alternative and electro-folk to create a set of funky-fresh beats infused with crucial political messages to future generations. The serious issues covered on Yankin' force listeners to reanalyze their own ethics, especially when cornered with their own self-images in "Look at Your Shoeshine": "Can you see yourself in your shoeshine?/ Step back!"
From the excitingly chilly vocals of "Salesman," to the persuasive political raps found in "News Goo," to the astoundingly real lyrics of "Di Hard" ("The good die young/ and the bad get paid"), Yankin' has something to offer every music-lover. Perhaps most notable, though, are the album's funky, upbeat tracks, such as "Boomers Blues," "Jam Inya Jimmies" and "Cincinnati Pink." With lyrics like "She's catchin' the groove and won't let go," it's obvious that once you put on this Polarity/1 record, you won't be letting go of the groove either.
But don't take our word for it; here's what others have to say:
"Polarity/1 is a musical force unleashing some of the hippest beats and timely lyric[s] on the scene" (MediaChannel.org).
"'Di Hard' is a medium tempo groove with rapped and sung vocals, everything done by Polar except for exquisite backing vocals by Scott Parker Allen and Sabina Sciubba. The song is a comment on Princess Di's demise, the role of the media, and the times we live in, serious without becoming sentimentalized or preachy. An interesting exercise in a style that's very hard to pull off" (Recording Magazine).
"Polar succeeds in his mission of forcing you to pay attention and not lull into the sounds you 'expect' to hear" (StarPolish.com).
The music of Polarity/1 is exactly what the name suggests—"conjoined opposites," including the new (cutting-edge electronica, hip-hop and nu-jazz) and the old (roots music of America, including blues, funk, country and early jazz, Brazil (samba, pagode, etc.) and West African groove science).
After a few years of playing percussion in samba bands at S.O.B.'s and other venues. Polar landed in hip hop which combined his interests in grooves, samples and wordplay into one form. He and rapper D.A.V. became Medicine Crew. In the aftermath of 9/11, Polar was asked to do a remix of Nile Rodgers' We Are Family Project released on a compilation by Tommy Boy Records. His experience of 9/11 which was perpetrated in his neighborhood led to a collaboration with multi-platinum Pakistan rock band Junoon resulting in their hit song 'No More'. John Hollander has choreographed four Polarity/1 compositions for New York's Battery Dance Company's fall season opening in November 2006 and has been touring extensively with the piece. In 2008, he scored "The Other Side" for the Quorum Ballet from Lisbon Portugal. P/1's new collaboration, Koko Dozo, released their first album Illegal Space Aliens in February 2008.
And you can check out Polarity/1 for yourself and learn how to purchase Yankin' the Food Chain by heading to http://amiestreet.com/polarity1
THE FIRST INTERGALACTIC NEWSMAG -- SPACE ALIEN NATION FREE SUBSCRIPTIONS FOR EARTHLINGS!!
The first Polarity/1 album Yankin’ The Food Chain has been re-issued. It's been re-mastered, a few songs have been re-mixed, a couple of songs have been dropped due to potential sampling issues, and a song has been added -- an un-released 1995 recording of Bag Of Bones.
....The New York landing in Feb. 2008 of explorers from the planet KOKO DOZO is no longer news. Koko Dozo spokesperson Chamoomzeon Hepadepsig said yesterday, "Earth has welcomed the sonic emissions of Koko Dozo with enthusiastic displays of drulbuntin and generosity. To symbolize appreciation we are offering free subscriptions of SPACE ALIEN NATION. It is so hot off the presses that the ink is radioactive!"
You can read the first two issues of SPACE ALIEN NATION on the Koko Dozo website. If you click a link to subscribe you will receive every installment FREE! If you fail to subscribe -- you will receive every installment FREE! But you will not be permitted to migrate to the Velvin Spoidyoiz Galaxy when your planet burns your ass.
Worried about that yomfolfoid sector off the Nomaaangz Rim? Get the breaking events, as they break! (depending on intergalactic atmospheric conditions). Get the latest gossip and errgergle. Homesick aliens -- get news from home and words of advice from Mom.
The first Polarity/1 album Yankin’ The Food Chain has been re-issued. It's been re-mastered, a few songs have been re-mixed, a couple of songs have been dropped due to potential sampling issues, and a song has been added -- an un-released 1995 recording of Bag Of Bones.
Also just released is the complete soundtrack of The Other Side. The album includes a bonus track — the vocal version of Fulano de Tal, sung in both Portugeuse and English. The choreographers preferred an instrumental version. The vocal version was released on the Koko Dozo album, Illegal Space Aliens.
THE OTHER SIDE PREMIERES IN LISBON AND NEW YORK
The New York premiere of the work was presented as part of the opening of Battery Dance Company's new season on February 13, 2008. Battery Dance member, Sean Scantlebury, performed the piece as part of Quorum Ballet. The show also included I'LL TAKE YOU THERE, the 2006 piece that was choreographed by Battery Dance's director, Jonathan Hollander, to four Polarity/1 tracks. On Feb. 3 the work was premiered to a full house in Lisbon.
WE OWN THE CHART!
Polarity/1 and collaborations -- Koko Dozo and Audioplasm -- have been up on Number One Music'selectronica chart since we signed up a year ago. But on the strength of a big propaganda blast about Quorum Ballet and Battery Dance Company and Koko Dozo's album launch party, the P/1 page got soaked and we took over the top 17 spots on the chart.
NEW DANNY SCHECHTER DOCUMENTARY FEATURES POLARITY/1 MUSIC
PLUNDER -- a new feature-length documentary about the Wall St. shenanigans that wasted the American economy -- features new and old music by Polarity/1. P/1 contributed the film's theme song, Plunder, as well as under-scoring. You might recognize recent songs like Home Sweet Home and old favorites like Speechless, Free Money, and Free Money Blues. The film will be released in fall, 2009.
POLARITY/1 SCORES NEW WORK FOR QUORUM BALLET, A LEADING DANCE COMPANY IN LISBON.
The new 40-minute work, The Other Side, was choreographed by Quorum's director Daniel Cardoso; New York's director of Battery Dance Company, Jonathan Hollander; and Virginia choreographer, Thaddeus Davis. Barry Steele designed the set and lights. Initially the three choreographers chose previously recorded Polarity/1 works, Land O’ Debbies (from P/1's Speechless CD and Ass Man from the Heavy Meadow CD. Polar scored the remainder of the work as the choreography unfolded. Also used was a re-arranged version of Many Thanks To You, Jack from Heavy Meadow.
ANNOUNCING A NEW POLARITY/1 COLLABORATION:
KOKO DOZO -- a new band with singer Amy D, Rubio (also half of Audioplasm) and Polar is at work on tracks for an album release scheduled for the fall of 2007. I'll be posting rough mixes soon.
September, 2007 Polarity/1 entered UBL.com's Ultimate Artist List at #36 and a week later has moved up to #4. UBL also designated P/1 a Featured Artist. This summer the online indie music scene has taken notice of the mighty Polarity/1 sound. The Eagle Has Descended (from the Speechless CD) is #3 on Broadjam's Top 10 in the Electronic - ELECTRONICA category. The Marvin Stomp (from the Speechless CD) made Broadjam's Top Ten in the Electronic - ELECTRONICA category and Swing That Kaddish (from the Prettier Than You CD) made the Unclassified Top 10. P/1 received a Featured Artist spot on Reverb Nation.Both P/1 and Audioplasm have made the charts on Number One Music.
Our favorite comment on the Polarity/1 mySpace page: "cool. you kinda sound like moby, without all the whiny bullshit and with some actual rhythm, and also if moby were good. nice work." -- Erik
POLARITY/1: FLESH & BLOOD ELECTRONICA FOR OUR TIMES AN INTERVIEW
by Mark Kirby August 8, 2007
May, 2007 After a two-year layoff we recently re-hooked up with indie music site BROADJAM. And already we're back on the their charts. Nilestones (from the Speechless CD) has entered their Top 10 in a number of catagories: Electronic (#2), Production - Mid Tempo, North America, USA and New York! Before our two-year vacation from recording we had placed eight Polarity/1 songs in Broadjam's Top Ten categories including Best Song-All Genres, Alternative, Electronic, Experimental Electronic. Four of those had placed #1 in their respective charts.
Polarity/1 and Rubio from our Audioplasm collab are scoring Danny Schechter's new feature-length documentary about Ugly George, cable tv's porn pioneer. In addition to the scoring there will be two new songs featured in the film.
P/1 is back to composing for choreographers
Johnathan Hollander, Director of New York's Battery Dance Company has choreographed four Polarity/1 tracks -- three from the Speechless CD. The work premiered November 16 2006 at The Tribeca Performing Arts Center. It was a full circle return to composing for dance and experimental theater which is what I used to do in Boston in the 80's. Hopefully the collaboration will continue. BTW -- Speechless has been remastered and re-released. You can get it at CD Baby and soon on iTunes and other download sites. That full circle thing co-incidentally got echoed a week earlier when I attended the 80th birthday of the extraordinary Harris Barron who created the Studio For Interrelated Media at Massachusetts College Art. Before there was Polarity/1, Polar Levine was an Artist-In-Residence at Mass Art doing performance art and composing for experimental theater and dance companies. I was part of that department.
SEVENTY VIRGINS AND THE SEXINESS OF POLITICAL MUSIC: An INTERVIEW With Polarity/1's Polar Levine by Danny Schechter for MediaChannel.org
A NEW POLARITY/1 CD
The latest Polarity/1 CD -- Prettier Than You -- was just mastered. It will soon be available. Unlike Speechless, this one is back to songs. Also it features Polarity/1's first cover song, Dança da Solidão, by Brazil's legendary singer/songwriter Paulinho Da Viola. P/1 sings it in Portuguese and plays all the instruments. The new material benefits from the appearance of Rubio who plays and sings backup on most of the songs and made much contribution to the engineering. Polar and Rubio have other projects in the works. We're working on a collection of instrumentals called Heavy Meadow that should be completed in the fall of 2006 and they've just launched a music production company Audioplasm which will focus on music for film and video.
A wild time was had at the Nantucket Film Festival by the team responsible for Danny Schechter's new film In Debt We Trust: America Before The Bubble Bursts. As the composer of most of the music in the film, I joined Danny, the film's producer Steve Green, Dr. Robert Manning -- the Number One Noted Authority on the credit card industry and its abuses, and journalist Rory O'Conner in attending two sold-out screenings and the many schmoozefests that followed. The response was passionate and loud. Thankfully Steve's friend Pam introduced me to my new trusty party-pal -- pomegranate martinis -- which helped loosen the tongue of the recluse that I am. The response to the music was amazing. I didn't expect documentary music to make people take notice. The featured song from the film -- Free Money (But You Have To Pay) -- is on the upcoming Polarity/1 CD Prettier Than You. Rubio had a hand in the scoring as well -- we co-wrote and recorded the song, I'm So Broke. And props to other music contributors Clifford Tasner who composes music for Billionaires For Bush, The Austin Lounge Lizards and folk singer Fred Stanton.
There hasn't been much stuff, newswise or musicwise, posted here for a long time because of my deep involvement with Battery Drumline. But now WE'RE BACK! Got a new polarity/1 CD in progress that will be called Prettier Than You. 70 Virgins will be on the CD. Other songs are in the oven. Most are political, either overtly or sneakily. There's actually a song about romantic relationships in there (Love Is Hard). And Swing That Kaddish about a aging Jewish hitman from the Jewish mob sometime in the late 50's (they were called schtarkers) that's loosely based on an uncle of mine who I'd met when I was a little kid. I'm thinking of working the song into a screenplay or novel. I play guitar on some songs so the jumble of genre-defiant weirdness will be even more genre-defiant. There's even going to be a sort of country song with a Northern Brazilian groove -- a bunch of acoustic & electric guitars and a pile of samba drums.
An important new element in the Polarity/1 sound is RUBIO, an all-around genius who's been contributing vocal arrangements & singing and keyboard work, particularly the electric piano and B3 organ on the new songs. Our collaboration extends into his output as well as mine. We're putting together a music production company called Audioplasm for film scoring and ads for non-destructive products.
Polarity/1's all-instrumental CD, Speechless, was nominated for BEST ELECTRONICA CD by JPF Music Awards with submissions from 86 countries and awards for 60 categories.
Polar Levine, a/k/a Polarity/1, has been making textural music for roughly 20 years, creating an intriguing plate of jazz slapped with interference, loops and found noise. … The splicings are far from random -- Polar knows exactly what he’s doing and why… I love the fact that Polarity/1 uses several live musicians instead of relying exclusively on samples; saxmaster Michael Blake is particularly adept at his craft. Polar succeeds in his mission of forcing you to pay attention and not lull into the sounds you “expect” to hear. However, the result is even more effective if you enjoy without reservations the sounds you hear instead.
Polarity/1 is the brainchild of NYC composer/producer/visual artist Polar Levine, who, when not making music, is running his own little spin of web subversion, with PopCultMedia. In it's entirety, Polarity/1's "Speechless" immediately strikes you as a lost soundtrack to some latenight & long forgotten acid trip. An electronic soup of beats, retro, tribal, and fragmented house peppered with bits of incoherent, nanosecond splices of altered speech snipits, off-time breaks, and unrecognizable audio from way back when, in pop cultures’ collective consciousness. As a sample in one of the tracks states, "If you don't like the music, go out and make some of your own," but chances are that you will dig on this funky little electro unit. Highly recommended. Download the track and buy the damn CD already.
Senhor Softee, a track to appear on Speechless, was recognized at broadjam.com as #1 Songs Top 10 in the Electronic category and New York Top 10. Softee continues to bounce around the Electronic Top 10. "The Eagle Has Descended" made broadjam.com's New York Top 10, putting two tracks from SPEECHLESS on the charts!
POLARITY/1's music is still a regular feature on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now broadcasts. Glad to be of use to the cause, Amy.
DRUMLINE IN THE NEWS
BATTERY DRUMLINE, the all kids samba school Polar drummer Curtis Watts and I founded, was featured on NY1 News. Curtis and I were designated New Yorkers of the Week. Just a fuckin' week?? To be fair, there are lots of other pretty hot people in New York too. Check out the vid. We're a not-for-profit 501(c)3 organization so you can donate tax-free to a great cause.
Battery Drumline news and press are on their site.
A compilation CD with Polarity/1 political songs and interviews called MEDIA WARS has been distributed all over Planet Earth as part of Danny Schechter's film WMD: Weapons Of Mass Deception.
While I was in Brazil I had the unique honor of performing with the bateria of Mangueira, one of the most venerated samba schools in Rio (i.e.-- in the world). I also picked some Portugeuse language and have recorded my first non-English-speaking song: Paulinho Da Viola's classic Dança da Solidão. Brasileiros out there, let us know if the pronunciation is too embarrassing; suggestions welcome.
Polarity/1 provided much music for the soundtrack to Danny Schechter's award-winning documentary, WMD: Weapons Of Mass Deception, about the American press' complete collapse in it's responsibilities as a professional and social institution leading up to the war in Iraq. The soundtrack includes MEDIA WARS which serves as the theme song.
BBC Radio has included No More, a song by Pakistani rock band, Junoon, in a radio series about cover tunes that brought new meaning to the original. Junoon's leader, Salman Ahmad, wrote the song was based on a poem I wrote a few days after 9/11.
I recently founded an all kids samba school with my long-time friend -- New York's finest drummer, Curtis Watts. It's called Battery Drumline. It's for kids, ages 11-16. We'll be bringing in dancers too. We wanted to bring it to Tribeca where these kids watched were picked up at school as the towers collapsed on 9/11, a few blocks south.
June 18, 2002: TheRecordingIndustry.com names polarity/1 Featured Artist
News Goo (The More You Watch, The Less You Know) from Yankin' The Food Chain has been getting airplay nationally since its release due to its subject matter and has been featured regularly on some of MP3.com’s Trip Hop radio programs.
It was named #1 song of the year on WMBR-FM’s No Censorship Radio (MIT’s station) and was featured in full on the soundtrack of Pedro Carvajal’s documentary, Subvertising.
RECORDING magazine July 2000
MUSIC: “Di Hard” is a medium tempo groove with rapped and sung vocals, everything done by Polar except for exquisite backing vocals by Scott Parker Allen and Sabina Sciubba. The song is a comment on Princess Di’s demise, the role of the media, and the times we live in, serious without becoming sentimentalized or preachy. An interesting exercise in a style that’s very hard to pull off. We hear stylistic nods to Innervisions, Sugar Hill and Paisley Park, yet it’s an entirely original project, taken from the polarity/1 CD “Yankin’ The Food Chain.”
RECORDING: This is a very good recording. Beyond just “good” in some respects. Let’s list a few ingredients to give you a better picture. The synth bass speaks with basically one voice, that of a slightly chorused sawtooth filter sweep resulting in “syllables” like “ouwah” and “awou” placed sparingly but effectively almost throughout. Drums and percussion show variety that supports the song. So does the voice.
COMMENTS: We’d like to hold this track up as an example of several successful techniques: Vocal treatment, drum programming, track building, using eq as a dynamic tool — do we have all day? No, but we’ll do our best.
Polar has many ways of dressing up a voice, depending on the demands of the song. He starts rapping in a slightly ghostly tone, band filtered — no real lows or highs, a bit like a telephone effect. And it suits the ghastly facts he reports about the death of Princess Di. That voice changes when he sings the second verse, in a fuller but still edgy tone. By the time he is joined by the background vocals in a soulful interlude, the tone is full, warm, rich. And this develops in a patient and subtle way over time — Polar doesn’t jump from effect to effect, he knows how to “work the line like a good fisherman works the catch.”
His drums are very sparse and standard at first, but he gradually adds more percussive elements, some of them defying traditional description, that build to a complex pattern, increasing the tension of the song where needed. And when he goes back to the basic kick/snare pattern, it’s no let-down because that pattern alone holds up well. Again, he doesn’t give away what he’s about to do, and when the change occurs, it feels right because the song demands it.
The song has so many segments, from sparse to complex, that it reads like a book. Tension, release, suspense, it’s all there, yet none of the quieter moments feel weak, they are part of an overall plan that simply works.
The volume changes are interesting in that they certainly do occur from segment to segment, yet the last section is not simply the loudest. Opening up the spectrum with eq from band-limited to full sound has the effect of pushing up the volume (of course, it does increase the amplitude), but Polar makes us believe he pushed up the volume faders for dramatic effect when other things are at work. Very effective.
SUMMARY It’s obvious that Polar draws on years of creative experiences as a performance artist, instrumentalist, builder of songs with samples and found sounds, choir member, etc. These experiences have come together to allow him to construct this song that works like a well conceived play where each actor has his/her moves precisely outlined.
Polar Levine's collaborations with journalist Danny Schechter is the subject of cover story in the Nieman Report.
Politics, Diversity and Self-Reflection: A Review of Polarity/1's 'Yankin' the Food Chain'
By Liz Singer, MusicDish e-Journal Polarity/1, the multi-genre artist best known for honest, hard-hitting songs, succeeds in being both persuasive and entertaining on his album 'Yankin' the Food Chain.' As Polarity/1 continues on his ambitious, outspoken journey through the music industry, the delightfully bold album only adds to his list of accomplishments; Polarity/1's music has been incorporated by dance theaters and documentarists, including Danny Schechter's feature-length film documentary 'In Debt We Trust' and Battery Dance Company's 26th Annual Downtown Dance Festival last year. Proving musicians' dual role as messengers, 'Yankin' the Food Chain' fuses electronica, acid jazz, alternative and electro-folk to create a set of funky-fresh beats infused with political themes. The serious issues covered on 'Yankin'' force listeners to reanalyze their own ethics, especially when cornered with their own self-images in "Look at Your Shoeshine": "Can you see yourself in your shoeshine?/ Step back!" From the excitingly chilly vocals of "Salesman," to the persuasive political raps found in "News Goo," to the astoundingly real lyrics of "Di Hard" ("The good die young/ and the bad get paid"), 'Yankin'' has something to offer every music-lover. "News Goo" includes an interesting battle between what we know versus what is really happening, and also the conflict between what we need versus what the government tells us we need. On the slower, almost-reggae "Bag of Bones," Polar takes the tempo down a few notches, relaxing listeners with smooth-jazzy, sarcastic lines like: "Jesus died for you to have fun." Not one of the album's tracks fails to be overwhelmingly interesting and unique. Perhaps most notable, though, are the funky, upbeat tracks, such as "Boomers Blues" and "Jam Inya Jammies." Reminiscent of the solar-system-y beats of Prince, "Cincinnati Park" also dazzles listeners with its fresh melody about a soul-filled lady. With lyrics like "She's catchin' the groove and won't let go," it's obvious that once you start playing 'Yankin' the Food Chain,' you won't be letting go of the groove, either.
A FEW PERSONAL RESPONSES TO NEWS GOO (The More You Watch, The Less You Know)
Just listened to your News Goo. My question: Do you have the words to News Goo online somewhere? I'd like to share some of it with some of my colleagues here at the law school. It would be good for them, Regards,Nicholas Johnson, former director of the FCC Musical
Heard News Goo on the radio this morning -- one of the most brilliant pieces of music that I've heard in a long time. I'm also a radio producer and may find some airtime for it elsewhere.
I want to tell you that I've really overwhelmed by all the different songs. I have lots of favorites already, but I just keep jumping around all over the CD. I'll be sharing it with friends for sure.
A friend of mine dropped by my show this past Friday. He had a copy of the News Goo CD. It's way wicked cool, and I played 4 tracks of it on the air in the course of my 2 hour show. I would love to put it into heavy rotation in the corse of the up-coming Friday nights. Can I obtain a copy? -- Chuck U. WMBR FM
NewsGoo is a cool take on the commercial news! I can't get it out of my mind, I wake up in the morning uttering "NEWS GOO!"
REVIEW OF CD Yankin’ The Food Chain
Polarity/1: Yankin’ The Food Chain (subTekst Records) It’s a group with attitude, musicians with mishigas and consciousness. Polarity/1 is a musical force unleashing some of the hippest beats and timely lyric on the scene. Who else takes on the testy relationship between blacks and jews with such honesty, affirming the common bonds that are often frayed in a song called "Howl." In "News Goo" Polarity/1 fires off a hip hop attack on media mergers and censorship of what matters. Sample line: "So where's the news of a people left out?/ Put a camera in my face to hear me shout/But they don't want to hear what I shout about." But Polarity/1 doesn't stop with safe subjects
"Di Hard" looks at the Death of our late lamented Princess skewering both her media whore obsession and the disgusting attention paid to her by the paparazzi (and the men who hire them).I lean to the more timely newsy songs but no one is left out--the music is strong and the subjects varied. They'll be yankin' your chain if you let them. And you will be better for it!
Political-themed Artist Re-releases ‘Yankin’ the Food Chain’.
Multi-Talented, Political-Themed Artist Re-Releases ‘Yankin’ The Food Chain’. Polarity/1, the multi-genre artist best known for bold, honest, hard-hitting songs, is re-releasing his hit album, Yankin’ the Food Chain, now with re-mastered tracks. Polarity/1’s music has been incorporated by dance theaters and documentarists, including Danny Schechter’s feature-length film documentary ‘In Debt We Trust’ and Battery Dance Company’s 26th Annual Downtown Dance Festival last year. Yankin’ the Food Chain fuses electronica, acid jazz, alternative and electro-folk to create a set of funky-fresh beats infused with crucial political messages to future generations. The serious issues covered on Yankin’ force listeners to reanalyze their own ethics, especially when cornered with their own self-images in “Look at Your Shoeshine”: “Can you see yourself in your shoeshine?/ Step back!” From the excitingly chilly vocals of “Salesman,” to the persuasive political raps found in “News Goo,” to the astoundingly real lyrics of “Di Hard” (”The good die young/ and the bad get paid”), Yankin’ has something to offer every music-lover. Perhaps most notable, though, are the album’s funky, upbeat tracks, such as “Boomers Blues,” “Jam Inya Jimmies” and “Cincinnati Pink.” With lyrics like “She’s catchin’ the groove and won’t let go,” it’s obvious that once you put on this Polarity/1 record, you won’t be letting go of the groove either.