Emerging as a blurry, sample-driven electronic pop outfit with influences ranging from Todd Rundgren to Italo-disco, Neon Indian became one of chillwave's definitive acts in the late 2000s before founder Alan Palomo took the project in a more polished, danceable direction. With 2009's Psychic Chasms, Neon Indian lived up to the hype generated by the project's early singles, thanks to Palomo's hazy but hooky swirl of disco, electro, dream, and synth pop. By the time of 2015's Vega Intl. Night School, he switched to a palette of funk, new wave, and reggae, but held onto Neon Indian's gift for balancing heady atmospheres with catchy songwriting. As the 2010s came to a close, his work as a producer and soundtrack composer -- not to mention his fascination with Peruvian music -- suggested even more aspects to Palomo's work. Born in Monterrey, Mexico, Palomo moved to San Antonio, Texas at age five. During high school, he formed the band Ghosthunter as well as the solo dance music project VEGA. After relocating to Denton to study at the University of North Texas, he began Neon Indian as a multimedia project with video artist Alicia Scardetta, a friend of his since high school. Though the No Way Down EP appeared in 2008, buzz around the act didn't really start until the following year, when the songs "Should've Taken Acid with You" -- which was inspired by Palomo and Scardetta's friendship -- and "6669 (I Don't Know If You Know)" were posted and praised by indie blogs. The songs "Deadbeat Summer" and "Terminally Chill" followed later in the year. Palomo wrote and produced Neon Indian's debut album, Psychic Chasms, which was hailed as one of chillwave's definitive works soon after its arrival in October 2009. The following year, a deluxe release of the album, plus remixes by Toro y Moi, Dntel, Bibio, and others, arrived as Mind CTRL: Psychic Chasms Possessed. In early 2011, Neon Indian released a four-song collaborative EP with the Flaming Lips. That September, Neon Indian's second album, Era Extraña, which Palomo recorded in Helsinki and mixed with Flaming Lips/MGMT producer Dave Fridmann, was released. The album, which featured input from live guitarist Joshua McWhirter as well as a few other musicians, had a much slicker sound than the project's hazy, lo-fi debut, and was conceived with live performances in mind. Errata Anex, a remix EP featuring Era Extraña tracks reworked by Actress, Patten, noise pioneer Boyd Rice, and others, arrived in 2013. That year, Neon Indian also contributed the exclusive track "Change of Coast" to the Grand Theft Auto V soundtrack. After Palomo's laptop -- which contained several years' worth of demos for the third Neon Indian album -- was stolen, he decided to work on other projects. These included appearing in Terrence Malick's film Lawless and writing and scoring the short movie Outer Osmo Ghost Mode, which was commissioned by Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art. When he returned to making Neon Indian music in 2014, it was so influenced by his VEGA work that Palomo named the album VEGA INTL. Night School. Recorded around the world and mixed with onetime Spank Rock producer XXXchange, the album arrived in October 2015. Beginning in 2017, Palomo focused on film and soundtrack work. That March, he appeared in Malick's film Song to Song with Rooney Mara. In June, the sci-fi film Everything Beautiful Is Far Away -- for which he composed the score -- was released. He also made time to contribute a Neon Indian track to LUXE, that year's Adult Swim collection of dream pop and future soul, and produced Boulevards' single "Nu Burn Ave (Intercruise)," which was released that October. Palomo then composed the music for the 2018 film Relaxer, while his own short film 86'd premiered that May and featured the single "Heaven's Basement." During this time, Palomo began work on Neon Indian's next album, which took inspiration from Peruvian cumbia and psychedelic music.
© Heather Phares & Paul Simpson /TiVo
© Heather Phares & Paul Simpson /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released October 13, 2009 | Static Tongues
Based on advance buzz from blogs, Neon Indian went from being an obscure Austin, TX duo to one of 2009’s most hotly tipped bands. Their debut Psychic Chasms actually lived up to the hype, which was no mean feat, especially because the band’s sound could be described as an improbable, hazy swirl of Daft Punk, My Bloody Valentine, and a vintage game console. Neon Indian’s watercolor electronic indie pop -- which blurs disco, electro, dream and synth pop together effortlessly -- is mostly the product of one Indian, Alan Palomo (the band’s other half, Alicia Scardetta, provides visuals for his lush sonics). Despite, or perhaps because of, the obsessive layers of sound in these songs, Psychic Chasms has a decidedly homespun vibe, and Palomo’s voice often feels downright frail, almost drowned out by its dense surroundings. The songs that appeared before the album’s release remain its euphoric highlights: “Should’ve Taken Acid with You” is as melancholic as it is psychedelic, filled with regret and swirling, streaking synths, and “Terminally Chill” is an inspired collage of soft rock and synth pop, with noodly keyboards and guitars that become one. Best of all is “Deadbeat Summer,” which samples Todd Rundgren’s “Izzat Love” and expands on that song’s breathy bounce with clouds of harmonies and keyboard filigrees that are barely pinned down by fuzz bass and clever rhymes like “abyss” and “reminisce.” Rundgren’s studio wizardry and vulnerability echo elsewhere on Psychic Chasms, especially on the album’s moodier second half. The superficially cheery “Local Joke” has the feeling of being laughed at, not with; “6669 (I Don’t Know If You Know)” wraps itself in woozy heartache; and even the album’s most overtly danceable track, “Ephemeral Artery,” has a dark edge underneath its kinetic beat. Even if the sheer amount of sounds Palomo crams into Neon Indian’s music is occasionally overwhelming, Psychic Chasms is a distinctive, adventurous, and heartfelt debut. © Heather Phares /TiVo