Monday 19th September 2011

Keeping up with the Jones' in the music world is never an easy task. Miss a week of 6music or the regular blogging sites and you can wind up still listening to New Wave bands, heavily influencing your jean colour of choice (We have nothing against New Wave, don't panic if you are glancing down at your purple trousers in turmoil, just an example). So, for those who have been sailing the seas or have switched your media of choice, then we have a little something for you in the form of a track by track review of Neon Indian's new release, 'Era Extrana'. This will absolutely be the critics choice album for the Autumnal months, so, as we like to give you the best of new music, then that is exactly what we shall do.

Remember those things called Arcades? Well if you don't, then 'Era Extrana' is a nostalgic glance at all noise Sega related. Each track brims with intergalactic references, managing to conjoin elements across the coin guzzling spectrum and still hit top score. That's why NEO must trend first on all those the highest score rankings, the guy must have spent hours and a small fortune perfecting the imitation needed for such accurate takes on childhood classics. Please now excuse the linear format in the album breakdown, but with each track brimming with such invention, they all deserve a mention. Kicking off proceedings is 'Heart : Attack'. This is the bit in the film where that 10 year old, freckle face boy is standing, eyes wide open, dwarfed by the magnitude of the very machine he is sure to overcome. Scene set well enough? The coin slips in, he stands back...and it starts. The imagery produced by this opening, 1 minute length track is almost none like  I have ever witnessed in an album filled with references. The synth sounds utilise the all too familiar sound of the game starting up, but then takes appropriate elements from fantasy motion pictures, moulding the soundscape for which the album follows. 'Polish Girl' starts in the same vein, but adapting itself. More warped and distorted, a homage to Hot Chip if you will. Again, the imagery this track depicts is one rocketing through space, changing course through pitch bend to pitch bend, but in no sense is it eerie or desolate, backed by warm melodic tones, all high in nature except a bass synth keeping you grounded. Sounds of collected coins, racking up the points earning you an extra life is interjected amidst the flurries. Synths, that when played separately, have an all too similar sound to the next, yet, when amalgamated together, stand apart vividly. 'The Blindside Kiss' shifts perception from the previous, intelligently interpreting starting a new level. Just like going up a new level on a game, this track gears in with a desicively harder punch. His vocals in the chorus, barely audible, drowned in smothered riffs. The last moments are hyper surreal, to the point of almost losing sense. But all the elements of the track are there, so to question artistic direction would be void, there is purpose and drive. If Athlete could do it way back when, then Neon's got our vote on this one. 'Hex Girlfriend' is by far the most formulaic song on the album, as if by the fourth level, that 10 year old boy has adjusted to the controls and is in control. What grasps intrigue is the devotion to his own vocal sampling, doubling, even tripling for desired affect. To pass ones voice through so many shifts to sound like a different entity all together. A deft touch. 'Heart : Decay', the name for the fifth track. A running trend throughout, with the third (not meaning to spoil it) making an appearance towards the latter end of the LP. Is this intended to reflect bonus levels, or a concept that he solely wanted, or needed to initialise. This clear break or interjection if you please in the album, holds many comparisons to ELO. Two melodies work as one. A needed calm, a breathing space for the listener to reflect. We enter now into darker territory. 'Fallout' feels heavily affected from 80's prog, until a gleaming shine is applied. Once again, he manipulates his voice, not distorted, but rendered in such a way that when the chorus strikes, he juxtaposes the vocals to a softer tone with deafened bass. By saying chorus would be unfit, as he doesn't tend to adopt such unswerving techniques. A mix of gentle transitions and immediate instruments are key to his fluidity. The title track, 'Era Extrana' is noticeably more "produced" than the previous tracks. An almost dance anthem to start, but losing grip soon after. He simply applies a tone for the duration and juggle when necessary. Cleverly promoting synths, where other artists may adopt a harmony of voices. You can almost hear a string of words if you allow yourself. By doing this Neon has left it wide open for interpretation, creating a uniquely intiment experience for each listener. Returning to the previous main element, we have the return of the hyperspace tangents in form of arcade game teen fun. Slapping you firmly in the face is 'Halogen'. A pre warning of four to five kicks of the drums is all you get before more 80's influenced beats, backing that the second half of this album is, not so much as obvious, just, a touch more on the beat. There are more obvious transitions from verse to chorus, but still allowing for a breakdown. The second half is almost chorus in its entirity. This is perhaps what he thinks the listener wants out of this track, so this is what he delivers. What is striking is a clever technique deployed by many film makers. Beginnings and endings link up. If you know your ending, you can work backwards. This technique is deployed on the majority so far. This gives the listener comfort, you are on a safe ride, but you will have a lot of fun! Starting with one singular element, incorporating no blending, the ninth track 'Future Sick' deploys all remaining factors of the track all at once, something LCD Soundsystem have got a penchant for. Taking quite a large breakdown in the middle gives Neon the chance to showcase each component in true light. He waits however, until the last point to bend pitch. This does not throw you off however, but awakens you to the complexities of the arrangement. 'Suns Irupt' Powers up like your health bar, just with slight complications. Think of trying to get your lawnmower started. Now imagine that lawnmower was in Tron and that is how this track starts, revving up until it finds its motion and away we go. Moving forward to fill in the gaps with warm textures, Neon seems to diminish any starkness that could creep in. Even with a definite beat, you feel this track could lead you anywhere. An ingenious design that, wherever he went, it would not throw you. Adding more drum elements towards the end gives an impression of faster pace, this is an illusion however. An observation on the man, the musical illusionist. As we beging to close, 'Heart : Release' is slower than the other breakdowns. There is pace here, using psychedelic sounds. It is a starker glance that, with the rest of the albums trend allows breathing room for what has come, and what is to follow. So here we are. The final level. We have battled through spaceships, big bosses, travelled through infinite time and back again and still have one life left in the form of 'Arcade Blues'. A cauldron of individual portions. A barking voice acting as an off kilter metronome. His voice clear to a fast kick and astronomical pitch bends. The vocals, eerier than it has been, but lets his grasp slip to hit back with an uplift, safeguarding all his good doings. I'll take you here, scare you a little, but don't worry, don't panic, here's a hug. By the second chorus, he positions his voice to the beat, a rarity throughout. So there is just one thing left to comment on. He has completed the game, beat the machine! Spent precious hours, put in his heart and soul, laughed and cried, he has won! But now, he has arcade blues. What a clever chappy! 'Era Extrana' is released on October 10th through Transgressive Records. Watch Neon Indian's "Polish Girl" here.


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