Manchester/The Deaf Institute/9-4-10
By Stephanie Grimshaw
In case you don’t know Neon Indian are a hotly tipped band from Texas, producing ‘chill wave’.
Chill Wave is, from my experience of it, what we used to call ‘ambient electronic music’ and actually sounds a little like the score to films like ‘Ladyhawke’ or ‘Labyrinth 2’ from the 80s. So there. That’s cleared that up then.
Currently a 4 piece, containing drum kit, guitar and two keyboard players, wearing cardigans, bad shirts and floppy hair. The crowd to be honest is fairly sparse, there are however, FOUR photographers running around the front of the stage vying for a decent photo of these bright young things.
Having never heard their songs before, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but found a romantic, wistful and enchanting sound-scape of digital sunshine, tinged with the lost loves of teenage experimentation.
The only track I catch the name of is ‘Ephemeral Artery’, the last song, which is much faster paced in terms of the set.
More of a rock song really, the guitarist has his chance to make his guitar sound like a guitar, (who I’m sure I’ve seen on ‘Rude Tube’) and the drums sound startlingly effective against the fuzzy distortion of the samples being produced by the keys.
File next to M83 and Ariel Pink if you need a place to put them, but for me, they are a truly exciting and mesmerizing band, and I’m afraid I’m at a loss to think of more words to describe them!
Imagine a more distorted, hazy and intense Passion Pit, with less focus on melodic clarity, and you’ll have an approximation of Neon Indian. The Texas collective, lead by Alan Palomo, are amongst the forerunners of the ‘chillwave’ genre. It’s a grouping which is little more than a bunch of indie hipsters thinking up bizarre new names for genres that already exist.
Tonight, Palomo is joined by a live band that is not only very skilled, but gives the songs from debut album Psychic Chasms a new lease of life. Drummer Jason Faries spends all evening busting out grooves that sound heavier and meatier than on record. Keyboardist Leanne Macomber is at ease throughout, grooving away whilst playing synths and shaking tambourines. Guitarist Ronald Gierhart, all long-haired and looking like he belongs at aDinosaur Jr gig, adds some impressive-sounding licks and solos that give the melodies a new persona.
But attention is focused on Palomo, who throws himself into the live performance. When he’s not twiddling nobs, pressing keys or even messing around with a theremin, he’s working himself up into a trance that he only interrupts when he signs. His vocals, just like on the album, are heavy on reverb.
The songs sound better live. The synths of Sleep Paralysist spark across the venue like wildfire; what on record would be a straightforward burst of keyboard during Local Joke becomes an almost skyscraping slice of guitar. Deadbeat Summer gets the biggest cheer of the evening. It is all very impressive.
And their onstage confidence is really starting to blossom. As a live band, they are very appreciative of their audience and seem genuinely pleased with the reaction to their set. They even attempt the ‘audience handclapping’ trick, which Palomo admitted onstage was not something they’d normally do. Either way, it proves that Neon Indian aren’t a band with their eyes glued to laptops.
This hour-long set is one that not only shows Neon Indian as at the top of their game; it hints that they’re capable of better things and playing larger rooms. Hipster buzz may have gotten the band to where they are, but on tonight’s evidence they’re unlikely to wither away any time soon.
- Another review from Cargo -
On the back of a summer’s transatlantic touring, Neon Indian brought their sundrenched chillwave to London’sCargo venue on Thursday evening. Named one of Rolling Stone’s best bands of 2010, the project represents a new direction for one man outfit Alan Palomo, who here recruits three friends for a backing band. The result is transformative, as the hazy and lackadaisical songs from their debut LP Psychic Chasms are performed with insistence and vigour.
Neon Indian seem at times as much enamoured with nostalgia as they are with progression- their array of modern synthesisers and technologically astute production lending their album a contradictorily, but enjoyable, 1980’s feel. It’s as if the music is half dreamt, or struggling against two decade’s of wear and tape-decay to get out. But it’s more than a gimmick, songs like 6669 and Ephemeral Artery displaying memorable hooks. It’s a shame that often the band are overtly referenced by the aesthetic in which they operate, rather than judged on the merits of their songwriting and performance.
In a live context, Neon Indian shine. The tape-warped, tonal bending aspect of their music is lost in lieu of a pressing instrumentation.The live drums of Jason Faries replace drum machine, guitarist Ronald Gierhart shreds picked riffs before slamming power chords, keyboardist Leanne Macomber jumps, wails and dances and enigmatic singer Alan Palomo is a spectacle. Surrounded by an array of pedals, synthesisers, samplers and pleasingly, a theremin- Palomo seems caught between enacting menace via his tools or embracing rapture through his staccato dancing. It’s in this setting that the strength of the music is allowed to shine, against a backdrop of brightly coloured psychadelic visuals, and with a consistent soundbed of arpeggiated noise throughout. Neon Indian perform for just under an hour, playing nearly all of Psychic Chasms and a couple of unknown numbers. They leave, giving warm regards to a beaming crowd. A thoroughly enjoyable gig, and one that showcases the difference between studio LPs and live performances. Neon Indian appear to be masters of both, articulating both contexts distinctly and with confidence.