Do quick-fire reissues still count as cash-ins when they’re coming from bands as obscure, in broad commercial terms at least, as Poliça? Whatever their intentions in re-releasing last year’s superb Shulamith so soon - the hope that a sleeper it will reach a wider audience would have to be the number one suspect in that regard - it does afford us four new tracks from the Minnesotans.
You always have to be cynical about the bonus tracks that are usually appended to these kinds of releases - if they were recorded at the same time, why didn’t they make the cut first time around? - and Raw Exit shouldn’t be immune from such examination, even if the press release makes clear that it’s intended as a ‘postscript’ to Shulamith. The band would probably strive to point out that the tracks didn’t quite fit with the album - sonically or thematically - and to be fair, it certainly seems that way. The title track is a little lighter, a little airier than the constantly claustrophobic Shulamith, with choppy vocals and synths eccentric enough to border on chirpy.
“Baby Blue” follows a similar tack; where Shulamith seemed to strive for darkness, for the same kind of brooding minimalism that The xx effectively founded themselves, this seems to be based less around groove and more on experimentation; the bassline wanders, the electronics range from staccato sampling to washed-out keyboards and singer Channy Leaneagh sees her turn relegated merely to equal sonic significance; Shulamith had her tortured presence front and centre throughout.
The title of “Great Regret” feels like a non-sequitur, too, compositionally at least. It’s a short, sharp blast of synthpop that breezes by, with a live drum track augmented by instrumentation so sprightly that it might have been plucked straight from a 16-bit video game. It also marks the end of the EP’s supply of original material; the final track, “You Don’t Own Me”, is a cover of the Lesley Gore song, and paced accordingly - a far cry from the sixties drama of the original, sure, but there’s still a deliberate, bluesy feel to the recording that frankly doesn’t suit either the band, or Leaneagh’s vocal style.
The main point of contention here, for me at least, is the suggestion that Raw Exit is an addendum to Shulamith. Instead, it strikes for totally different sonic ground. I hate to approve of albums being reissued within twelve months of their initial release, but I can make an exception this time around; with this EP, Poliça aren’t just offering us something different to that last record - they’re dropping heavy hints as to where they’re headed next.