Album review: "Era Extrana"
Last year, Neon Indian, Toro y Moi and Washed Out became the standard bearers of the chillwave microgenre, so named for its reverb-soaked vocals and simplistic danceable beats made from loops, synthesizers and laptop programming.
Those qualities also caused critics and bloggers to write off chillwave as nothing more than a fad. But this year, Toro y Moi and Washed Out have proven that chillwave can be much more sophisticated. And now from Neon Indian (a.k.a. Alan Palomo), there's "Era Extrana," a wonderfully weird album that pairs M83's '80s synthesizer fetishism with what sounds like the soundtrack to an old sci-fi flick.
The beats are just as arresting as those in Neon Indian's debut album, "Psychic Chasms," while being altogether more complex, with tightly packed swirling synths, theremin weeps and electronic effects washing over the songs. "Fallout" sounds like a dreary Human League number bathed in electronic fuzz, and "Arcade Blues" is a catchy electro-pop tune that samples video game sound effects.
Simply put, "Era Extrana" takes the microgenre, which many saw as a punch line, and pokes, prods and deepens it. Further proof that Neon Indian and his ilk are here to stay.
--Brandon Weigel, Sept. 16, 2011