By their own account, The Polychromatics “like to see a lot of colors,” and named their band accordingly. The five Philly rockers specialize in theatrical psych—think Pink Floyd and Melody’s Echo Chamber—with a slathering of prog, jam band, and even lo-fi hip-hop sounds. Their live shows feature towering guitar duels between frontman John McKenna and Isaac Goad, anchored by a ferocious rhythm section in bassist Michael Gisli and drummer Jimmy Arvan, Jordan Schreiber’s operatic vocals cutting through the storm.
Sequences From the Punch Dimension sounds nothing like this—which makes perfect sense for a band with such a love of spontaneity. It’s a relatively slow, even stately release, conceptual and multi-layered. At the same time, it never feels stiff or worked-over; it’s clear these songs resulted from the same loose exploration as any other Polychromatics project. The key ingredient here is Jordan Buzzell on violin, who pillows McKenna’s pleading, dissonant guitar line on the downtempo “Love” and provides a weepy outro on “Vox.” The Polychromatics have taken more than a few left turns in their young career, but up until now they’ve hardly indulged in their orchestral side. It’s to Buzzell’s immense credit that his violin sounds right at home in the group’s weird orbit.
For all their exploratory turns, there’s a focused, martial stomp running through these songs—due in large part to Jimmy Arvan’s drums. The third track, “Love,” is a two-part suite: first, Arvan’s tight fills background McKenna and Schreiber’s harmonies, then Arvan speeds up to match McKenna’s wandering solo—an arresting moment at the midway point of the project. But the first three tracks play like warmups for “Earthen Gate” and closer “Interoception”—showcases for Schreiber and McKenna, respectively. The ominous “Earthen Gate” finds Schreiber putting her classically trained vocals on full display over a lilting, melodic bass line
“Interoception” is a shimmering sendoff – like “Love,” it expertly combines acoustic meandering with straight-ahead stomp. At once cloaked and confident, wandering and forceful, The Polychromatics manage to nail the sound of discovery, like finding an oasis through a veil of mystery. Though we may never truly understand the Punch Dimension, it’s hard to imagine it being monochromatic.
Casey Burke is a published music journalist and creative writer with a wide-ranging taste in music. His work has appeared in Grandma Sophia’s Cookies, Brainchild Literary & Arts Magazine, and blogs for WTJU and Plaze Music.