The fetishizing of the past is something I’ve thought a lot about recently, and I’m always fascinated by the myopic fashion in which past events, eras and trends are sanctified by those living in the present, even those who had no direct experience of the past-time in question. This, combined with an article I read a few months back stating that the brain retains only the most recent recollection of an event instead of the memory’s original locus (thus making our duplicative memories highly susceptible to error), provided me the opening into Neon Indian’s ’80s-reel-resurrection sound and their new album, the review for which I’ve sampled below.
Memory functions in an infinitely regressive, Borgesian sort of way. When we recall past events, our brains don’t retrieve the imprinted, lasting sensations of the original experience from the filing cabinet of the mind as much as they simply remember our most recent remembrance. Thus, truly, is the past “a foreign country,” locked away in a succession of discrete Russian dolls, and our recollections of our past lives only corrupted facsimiles that become more faded, contrived and artificial with every reproduction. Alienated, cut off from all that’s come before, every reflection is as slickly inauthentic as an episode of “Mad Men,” the fraudulent Vietnam-era postcard of Forrest Gump, a hippie musical based on Beatles tunes or the political fantasizing of neo-Reaganites.
Perhaps no one else understands memory as a collective hallucination untethered from its underlying truth better than Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo, whose ’80s-thick, synthetic soundscapes and jokey, distorted-VHS infomercials play on Gen-X and -Y feelings of nostalgia (nostalgia being Greek for “our pain”) better than Hot Tub Time Machine or the latest remake or adaptation of a beloved children’s television show could ever hope to. This go-around, though, not content to rifle through the bargain bin of lo-fi retro culture like a hobo stalker searching for bank records in the trash, Palomo forgoes the sample-heavy approach of debut record Psychic Chasms for a more refined, cultured, crisp and ultimately original approach. Rather than recontextualize samples ad nauseum, he plays up the elegant synth phrasing and vocal hooks to which he is so disposed, and which prolifically people his prior recordings as VEGA, producing a record as refreshing as it remains sonically impenetrable.
For the rest of the article, click here: Spectrum Culture: Neon Indian – Era Extraña
For further examples of Neon Indian’s weirdly fake-’80s antics, watch below: