[5 November 2009]
Psychic Chasms is a marvelous sonic voyage through a bubbly synth landscape of tones and emotions. One listen to the album gives the impression of brilliant, lush canopies of vivid synthesizers and crawling guitars swaying playfully in a jungle of two-channel stereo sound.
Appropriately, Neon Indian’s new offering plays like a sonic hallucination. Molting patterns and sequences of color, light, and sound exude from the warm embrace of the poppy electronic album. In fact, the nucleus of it was derived in a midwinter demo session in Texas, which, judging by song titles and the press release information packet, I think its safe to assume involved the consumption of one or more controlled substances. Either way, the interplay between the back buzz of guitar and the sonic scenery of synthesizers creates an audio ecstasy tantamount to wandering through a hallucinogenic wonderland.
The album begins with the interstellar laser tones, fuzz beats, and sunshine electronica of “(AM)” and “Deadbeat Summer”. The two-track combo is the kind of upbeat synthetic psychedelia that makes one want to run naked through a field of blossoming flowers. Exuberant and precocious, the song captures the excitement of a new high with the sound of sunbeams and robot guitars.
“Laughing Gas” is a twisted anthem that predictably has a lot in common with the pleasures of a nitrous oxide binge. Like a Saturday at home with nothing to do, this gem is a giggly little tune with bending, bright notes. While the whole album shines with bright sounds and merry melodies, “Laughing Gas” captures the strangest of altered sensations with a whimsical warble.
Without so much as one lousy moment of comedown, “Terminally Chill” takes bird chirps and distant croons and splatters them beneath neon smooth rock guitars whose perfumed distortion pops and crackles like sparklers. The ensuing interlude, “If I Knew, I’d Tell You”, borrows from cheesy early synth pop and leaves you feeling like you’re watching a cutaway scene in National Lampoon’s Vacation.
“6669 (I Don’t Know If I Know You)” is a synth bass-heavy track about loss of communication. Flashing hiss-and-moan keyboard solos intertwine with vocals in electronica that seems oddly genuine. Similar feelings of distance amidst a sea of chemically altered personalities play out in the strange landscape of “Should Have Taken Acid With You”, where Alan Palomo seems truly bummed to have missed an opportunity to relate to someone close. There’s always next time, Alan—the song turned out pretty well either way.
With its retro Atari madness, “Mind Drips” pushes the synth bit to the point of oversaturation. Fast, frantic sequences help evoke an accelerated climax of sound that makes your mind feel like tenderized pork loin falling off the bone. Respites of drawn-back interludes reinforce the ordinarily plodding, sightseeing tempo of the album.
The cybershamistic impulses of Neon Indian appear at their fullest on the album’s title track. This cavernous psychtrip of a song takes a joyous synth lead of buzz-saw bellows and underpins it with a chirping countermelody that draws from the deepest wellsprings of the album’s synth consciousness. Bit-heavy, pitch-bending guitars welcome you back to the inner spirit of the drug-induced epic and lead you to some hallucination of space and time where sounds are as lush and vivid and sights and smells.
Starburst crescendos in “Local Joke” play like you’re riding atop a synth mortar in your hometown’s fourth of July fireworks show and the heartbeat echoes of “Ephemeral Artery” rock and shudder all the way up your spinal column until they cascade into the croony, unbalanced comedown of the album’s closer, “7000 (Reprise)”.
Never ominous and always bright, Psychic Chasms is fantastic brain candy in the vein of electronica or millennial psychedelia. If poppy synthetics and warped, cloaked guitars are your thing, then prepare yourself for the bombardment of huge synth canopies and dancing notes in this vintage electro epic.