|VEGA INTL. Night School (October 16, 2015)|
Neon Indian — VEGA INTL. Night School (October 16, 2015)Ξ★Ξ The project of producer/multi–instrumentalist Alan Palomo, which began as a definitive chillwave act before moving into more electronic territory.
Formed: 2008 in Denton, TX
Location: Denton, Texas
Styles: Chillwave, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Electronic, Indie Rock
Album release: October 16, 2015
Record Label: Transgressive / Mom & Pop
01 Hit Parade
02 Annie 4:02
03 Street Level
06 The Glitzy Hive
07 Dear Skorpio Magazine
08 Slumlord 5:15
09 Slumlord’s Re–Lease
10 Techno Clique
11 Baby’s Eyes
12 C'est La Vie (say the casualties!)
13 61 Cygni Ave
14 News from the Sun (live bootleg)
♦ Alan Palomo
♦ Jason Faries
♦ Ed Priesner
♦ Joshua McWhirter
♦ Luke Lauter Photography
By Ian Cohen; October 14, 2015; Score: 8.6 BEST NEW MUSIC
Ξ★Ξ Alan Palomo of Neon Indian recorded VEGA INTL. Night School over the span of four years at a number of crash pads across America, but most crucial to the album was a self–described “magical winter” the singer spent on a Carnival Fantasy Cruise ship with his brother, who played in the house band. (Insert chillwave joke here.) The album contains enough reggae and Balearic tropical breeze to prove Palomo doesn’t shy away from pleasing the lido deck, but beyond the kitsch, an extended stay in a floating, inescapable city is an apt metaphor for VEGA INTL. Night School, where the inherent danger of total immersion is offset by generous hospitality.
Ξ★Ξ Palomo acts a gracious host, delivering the most deluxe, comprehensive Neon Indian album yet. He’s presenting the 51–minute record as a “double album” and the interstitial bits ensure the beat never stops. The production values are higher, and there’s even more of Palomo's queasy pitch–shifting, 16–bit synths, and disembodied samples — more of everything. Palomo might have seemed like someone stumbling onto a recipe with Psychic Chasms, but now it's clear that this is Palomo’s foundational music, his blues or funk.
Ξ★Ξ Palomo’s riff on the idea of “night school” is the album’s unifying thematic construct: stay up after midnight, and you’ll learn about how human nature really works. In this way, the progression of Neon Indian is best seen as Palomo moving from PG–13 to NC–17 — if you dial the Neon Indian hotline he set up for this album, what you hear is a voice purring “hey there, sexy.” Everyone’s committing crimes of passion on VEGA INTL. — a missed phone call occasions a “CSI” investigation on “Annie” and on “Baby’s Eyes” Vega harbors a charismatic murderer. Elsewhere, we're exposed to a polyamorous tryst in “Smut!” after a chance meeting behind the red curtain in the porno section of a video store.
Ξ★Ξ So consider VEGA INTL. Palomo finally freeing his dirty mind, even as the music maintains a veneer of innocence. Neon Indian is an inherently nostalgic project, and Palomo views the musical cross–pollination of the early ‘80s as unfinished business rather than something to romanticize. Era Extraña framed Palomo as the rock star he could often seem on stage, engaging in the pouty, guitar–centric forms of post–punk — shoegaze and MTV–friendly goth in particular. Conversely, VEGA INTL. recalls the synthesists who took “post–punk” as a mandate to leave punk rock behind. The reggae bump of "Annie" and "61 Cygni Ave" recall Scritti Politti and the Police, and there’s plenty of Tom Tom Club and Blondie in the album’s bubbly disco.
Ξ★Ξ The cumulative impression of VEGA INTL., then, is that of a Carnival Cruise night based around New York’s Danceteria, circa 1982, a place and time of glaring blight as well as utopian all–night clubs where synth–pop, disco, funk, R&B, and early hip–hop were feeding off one another. Any artist trying to capture the spirit of that specific era has to reckon with Prince, a personification of the idealism of early '80s pop, and Palomo finally gets there at the end of the record: "News from the Sun (Live Bootleg)" recalls both the insular psychedelia of Around the World in a Day, the "is it really live?" crowd noise of "Purple Rain", and the communal ecstasy of Sign 'o’ the Times. Before the final leap into a daredevil key modulation, Palomo delivers the record’s final line: "We’re all just waiting for something — 'til love touches you like a hand in the dark." Those words encompass the starry–eyed ideal as well as the unsavory reality of how people tend to find love. Morning might bring to light all of the shameful things that have just gone down, but "News from the Sun" assures that whatever happens on this fantasy cruise stays there. Ξ★Ξ http://pitchfork.com/
ANDY BATTAGLIA, OCTOBER 12, 2015 8:24 AM ET
Ξ★Ξ "Hey there, sexy," a saucy voice says on a hotline set up to promote Neon Indian's new album, in a sort of send-up of phone–sex festivity. Dial the number (512–643–VEGA) and, after sitting through a few lascivious intimations, a link gets sent by way of text to hear the new single from VEGA INTL. Night School. It's very Neon Indian: old and new technologies coming together in a sly but seemingly sincere way, with throwback results that keep the prospect of a party in mind.
Ξ★Ξ "Slumlord," the song triggered by the phone call, is big and bright in a manner that peers back to Neon Indian's chillwave roots but with a newer — and bigger and brighter — sense of scale. The beat is thwacking and spacious, its disco ambiance aided by a bulbous bassline and a gaggle of synthesizers in arpeggiated action. There's a lot going on, and its antic metabolism carries over to much of the album, Neon Indian's third since breaking out in 2009 and its first since 2011's Era Extraña.
Ξ★Ξ After a brief, roiling electronic intro, "Annie" kicks off the album in earnest with a laid–back quasi–reggae vibe that evokes contemporaries like Peaking Lights as well as throwbacks from The English Beat to Men At Work. The sleek, colorful electronic tinge of it all makes for a sound far better than the notion of "quasi–reggae" might suggest, and it introduces '80s–mining inclinations that are never too distant in the mix. "Street Level" follows in the style of a strange, sloshing pop song that seems to have more sounds clamoring within it than any one song could contain, before "Smut!" clears out a bit in favor of an airier, more leisurely groove.
Ξ★Ξ The vocals of Neon Indian chief Alan Palomo sound smeary and diaphanous throughout, with occasional falsetto rises that tip toward Prince but more often strike a wandering tone that favors suggestive impressions of feelings more than clear words. Ξ★Ξ ("Neoprene" and "magazine" figure in "Smut!" in a way that seems significant.) Within the mix of so many other animated sounds at play, the voice takes its place as just another presence at a party worth crashing. Ξ★Ξ http://www.npr.org/
Discography, only studio full albums:
★ Psychic Chasms October 13, 2009 (Lefse)
★ Era Extraña September 7, 2011 (Static Tongues, Mom + Pop)
★ Vega Intl. Night School October 16, 2015 (Mom + Pop)
|VEGA INTL. Night School (October 16, 2015)|