While its key players might not be chart fixtures on either side of the Atlantic, there’s surely no doubt that chillwave has been the most-hyped (sub-) genre of the year, so far. Sun-bleached, dubbed-out, loved-up, its protagonists – from Washed Out to Toro y Moi, via Baths and Memory Tapes – have enjoyed substantial coverage across the blogosphere and beyond. Neon Indian, aka Denton-based solo artist Alan Palomo, was among the first chillwave-tagged artists to release a long-player, Psychic Chasms originally released in October 2009 in the US. But its delay in securing an official UK release leaves the listener in a position of listening backwards, rather than embracing progress within a stylistically narrow scene.
Psychic Chasms’ late arrival on British shores means it trails collections from all of the aforementioned parallel-worthy proponents of this lush, but limited, sonic palette. But while it lacks the freshness that saw it named one of Pitchfork’s best albums of last year, there’s no doubting that Palomo’s best efforts retain their charm a year since they were first heard. Deadbeat Summer and Terminally Chill are appealingly squelchy – the former like John Hyde’s theme music for Henry’s Cat, the latter Daft Punk on an epic comedown – and 6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know) finds Palomo’s optimistic vibes crushed by a muscular, but nevertheless affecting melancholy. Mind, Drips finds our protagonist establishing a kosmische-echoing atmosphere beneath thick beats, and Ephemeral Artery guides the record to a close with a funky confidence that tunnels itself immediately into the memory.
Those who didn’t pick the 12-track original up on import are treated to seven remixes and the inclusion of a single from spring 2010 (the perfunctory, but pretty enough Sleep Paralysist), expanding Psychic Chasms to a 20-track affair that’s pretty tough to tackle in a single sitting. There are names familiar – Toro y Moi, Bibio, DNTEL – and some that aren’t. Few take the songs they’re augmenting into fantastic new territories, but there’s a classiness about Bibio’s sharp-edged percussive punch and gut-rumbling low end on Mind, Drips; a glossy sheen to the chimes of The Antlers’ re-working of Ephemeral Artery; and a Ruby Suns-style seaside cheeriness to the Body Language remix of Should Have Taken Acid With You.
Neon Indian might have showed up late to the party on this side of the pond, but since he blew up the balloons and baked the cake in the first place, his bad timing’s not really an issue. Psychic Chasms is less chillwave’s second coming, then, more a belated statement of intent from one of its founding fathers.
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