Neon Indian - Psychic Chasms
Chris Tapley 20/09/2010
Many may already be familiar with Psychic Chasms given it was originally released in 2009 through the burgeoning Lefse Records. Indeed Lefse and Alan Palomo, the 22 year old musician behind Neon Indian, were at the forefront of the chillwave rise alongside the likes of Washed Out and Toro Y Moi. It's understandable that those unfamiliar with his work may well be turned off by hearing him associated with such alumni, because many have dismissed the genre as being style over substance and holding a needlessly lo-fi aesthetic which glamorises a lack of musical ability. Whilst not entirely untrue these are accusations which certainly don't apply so much to these stylistic front runners, and indeed Palomo's debut is packed with great songs which disprove the theory.
Exhibit #1 - 'Deadbeat Summer'. Following a brief, and really rather pointless and ineffectual, intro this kicks proceedings off beautifully. There is something instantly familiar in it's stunted ramshackle groove (it's quite awkward really - essentially dance music for people who can't really dance), the basic rhythm clashes with the protracted manipulated synth and guitar lines to create a melody which lies somewhere between a song you might hear in everyday reality and a hazy filmic perception of memory. It's this middle ground which Palomo mines so well and gives his songs a kind of personal gravitas which is difficult to find. It manages to infiltrate the recesses of your brain in order to hoist up fragmented images of forgotten
moments and not only manages to piece them together in to almost a full picture, but one that you can dance to. If Psychic Chasms was downbeat and melancholy then it would be nowhere near as effective or involving, namely because Palomo has conceded that pretty much all of the tracks here are about relationships and the effervescent aesthetic makes them seem more like a cathartic purging of memories, a dance of rebirth so to speak, rather than one of contrition.
This isn't to say it's a cold record, there's a lingering fondness and warmth which permeates the songs. 'Should Have Taken Acid With You', the first Neon Indian song ever recorded, has a longing to have made a different decision tempered with a sense of acceptance whilst the lyrics paint a picture of a kind of stereotypically rose tinted teenage memory; “Should have taken acid with you\take our clothes of in the swimming pool\should have taken acid with you\tell my parents I'm staying with you”. The moments where he embraces the ludicrous are amongst the most involving often, such as 'Laughing Gas' with it's cackling voices and luminous bouncing synths. The sense of fun in these tracks helps to detract attention from the fact that there is definitely a bit of a lack of variation in the album as a whole.
One of the best tracks though is the only original featured on bonus disc Mind Ctrl: Psychic Chasms. Possessed which features remixes from the likes of Toro Y Moi, The Antlers and Dntel, all of which are enjoyable but don't really eclipse the originals. 'Sleep Paralyst' though seems like a perfect summation of Palomo's sound, it's swarming glitchy synths and chunky bassline sound cheesy as hell but somehow when mixed with the lyrics it becomes strangely arresting “Don't sleep\Only you and I are awake\so just don't sleep\in the morning this will all seem fake”. Only time will tell if Neon Indian can create anything which can find an audience beyond the realm of chillwave but on the basis of the songs themselves it seems there is a good chance of him moving on to create something which stands up away from any kind of hype.