While owning Psychic Chasms makes one privy to only half of the Neon Indian sensory experience, that shouldn’t dissuade listeners from buying the album alone. Neon Indian is more of a multimedia experience, with the music handled by VEGA mastermind, Alan Palomo, and the live visuals handled by Alicia Scardetta. This means that Psychic Chasms is largely uninfluenced by Scardetta’s creative input. And while one can easily imagine that this gleefully psychedelic music is greatly enhanced by trippy treats for the eye, that doesn’t diminish the joyous effect of Palomo’s warped compositions.
There have been few musicians who have called to mind the masterfully erratic works of Max Tundra, and Neon Indian doesn’t quite inspire the same spastic foaming as Max Tundra’s hyper-fragmented music. But Neon Indian does have a similar sense of how to imply genuine emotionality through clever use of twisted synthesizers, typically a symbol of artistic mechanical detachment. Psychic Chasms is a record touched upon by a not so golden-hued nostalgia, and it’s reflected well in each synthesizer and guitar slipping carefully in and out of tune.
The first example of this tendency comes right at the outset, and if “Deadbeat Summer” doesn’t instantly win you over, turn the record off. There’s nothing for you here, and it’s probable that you’ve lost the capacity to experience happiness. “Deadbeat Summer” is full of heavily flanged synths rising and collapsing, skewed guitar, and happily lethargic vocals calling to mind every debatably wasted summer of thorough and complete inactivity. It’s at once buoyant and bittersweet, a mixture of textures that pops up pretty regularly all over the album.
Much like contemporaries Truckasaurus and Crystal Castles, Neon Indian shows himself to be capable of fusing would-be 8-bit videogame soundtrack music into hypnotic patterns of psychedelic electronica. Unlike those aforementioned bands, excellent as they can be, Neon Indian accomplishes this without coming off cold and clinical. “Mind, Drips” begins with a sort of spiraling arpeggio of dated keys, ever so briefly giving off the impression that a game of “Star Fox” or perhaps “Pole Position” may be beginning. That impression quickly fades when cosmic synths enter accompanied by slow, echoed percussion and Palomo’s effects-drenched voice singing vague tales of romance gilded through an inebriated haze. It may be the most genuinely affecting song on Psychic Chasms, a perfect example of slight lyrical content expertly boosted by well-established moods and tones.
It’s rare to come across an album of synth-pop that manages to deftly weave in and out of ebullience and faint melancholy without seeming schizophrenic. Sure, Hot Chip can pull it off, and Mylo’s Destroy Rock And Roll provides some dreamy kicks, but albums like this are still a commodity: perfect for the early hours of a party, and equally appropriate for solitary listening. Keeping the running time at barely past a half hour certainly helps Psychic Chasm’s replay-ability too.