Any decent career can be split up into three stages – inception, growth and maturity. Seeing all three in the same gig, however, is something new entirely. Somersault, playing their first ever gig, open up proceedings and provide the perfect starting point for the evening with their heavily instrumental, psychedelic guitar work. A twosome, one live-loops a guitar whilst the other hammers desperately at a laptop, hunched over centre stage, and together they make an experimental, near-chillwave noise that only lacks a few finishing touches.
Main support Chad Valley is one man who already looks as though he’s already grown enough. The name might sound familiar, but that’s more likely the fact that it’s shared with a well known toy manufacturer. Backed with a rolling video of swimming turtles and frolicking, underwater women, Hugo Manuel makes music as if Passion Pit had spent a couple of summers in Ibiza, becoming a lot more engaging on the way. Almost in the dark compared to his lucid visual, he provides a stunning, warped soundtrack that certainly deserves more appreciation. His set outlasts the video, but the warmth and ingenuity of his work means that the burgeoning crowd aren’t too bothered.
It’s only in the music industry that 2 years could be considered time enough to be considered established. But, billed as ‘pioneers’ of chillwave, Neon Indian are exactly that in all their quirky glory, having spent the past 24 months or so blazing a trail for others to follow. Though strictly speaking this is the solo work of Alan Palomo, the sound certainly benefits from being expanded to a four piece live, transforming the post-Balearic bedroom beats into an assault on the senses.
Somewhat helped by the inclusion of a Theremin, the band manage to gloriously illustrate what sets them apart from their contemporaries. Whilst others settle for repeating samples or standing behind a synth, it’s a treat to see an act so desperate to reproduce such a trademark sound live, which is done resplendently. With his bandmates around him, Palomo gets into full swing, energetic and bustling, seemingly overjoyed to be playing to a half-full room. Though far from capacity, the shimmering glo-fi manages to generate some heat, with much of the set taken from 2009’s Psychic Chasms.
At the moment, chillwave’s impact long term is impossible to tell. Even if it’s reduced to a footnote in a few years time, the impact that Neon Indian has had upon the movement is difficult to underestimate. There are times when it sounds like the work of a more experimental, blissful Daft Punk, and others when it’s so plugged in that it’s like a jolt to the system. It’s the work of a man who clearly still has a lot of ideas, and the boundaries are still there to be pushed. With two songs left, Palomo asks the crowd to come forward before mournfully explaining why they’ll be unable to party afterwards. Fortunately, the gig in itself feels enough like a celebration to compensate and thankfully, Neon Indian’s journey is far from over yet.
Neon Indian – Should’ve taken acid with you [download from neu]