With cult respectability and Pitchfork kudos, Alan Polomo’s Neon Indian have carved a comfortable niche for themselves in the electro market. Their debut release, Psychic Chasms, was a joy-inducing and lively listen that was hard to categorise; full of textures and soundscapes that resembled something from early 90’s videogame soundtracks overlaid with an aural distance akin to Air. The only problem was that the entire experience was a bit of a shambles. The individual sections of the album were a genuinely good time: the shamelessly upbeat “Deadbeat Summer”, or the complete trip that is “I Should Have Taken Acid With You”. But with these tracks placed side-by-side, Psychic Chasms was klunky, misshapen and difficult to commit to.
With Era Extraña, their sophomore LP, they’ve taken a more straightforward approach, rectifying the beautiful mess of their previous release. They’ve retained a plethora of those nostalgic sounds, featuring similar uses of Vangelis-esque strings and intermittent electronic gobbledygook. But that’s not to say they aren’t moving in a new direction. For Psychic Chasms, the group’s experimental tendencies were channeled into instrumental textures, creating those exotic and foreign atmospheres. On Era Extraña, they’re toned down and contained within fleeting moments of playfulness. In “Arcade Blues”, for example, oscillating, high-pitched chimes, distorted male grunting and a wobbly whine, all of which sporadically strike a generally conventional beat.
Tantalisingly, the focus lies more heavily on vocals, immediately grafting more conventional structures onto the tracks. Palomo’s voice has been polished up and stripped back, allowing the listener to actually distinguish lyrics and melodies. “Polish Girl”, arguably the more radio-friendly track, muses on an unrequited love, “Do I still cross your mind? Your face still distorts the time”. The lyrics are top-notch. “The Blindside Kiss” tenderly explores the depths of debilitating shyness while “Future Sick” makes dreamy predictions of a period, “ten years from now”.
Era Extraña seems like an album they should’ve released first, allowing listeners to get a taste for the experimental complexities of Neon Indian, before descending completely into the ethereal abyss of Psychic Chasms. That being said, the LP is a more accomplished release and genuinely more rewarding. The elements are balanced perfectly and the tracks are consistent and varied. This album is sure to cement the group’s fan base and build on a much wider one.