Imagine walking for days in the hot West Texas desert with nothing more than the shredded, soiled clothes on your back and a canteen with more sand grit in it than the H2O you started out with. Just as you think the vultures that have been stalking you for the past 12 hours will surely be dining on your well-baked, stringy body you happen across an oasis amidst the searing rays of the sun, endless horizons of beige, and rising waves of heat. It’s a neon-lit dome, pulsating music emanating from the cracks in the veneer and blacked-out windows. The sign blazing above the aged wooden door screams these words:

Vega Intl. Night School.

IMG_1426Upon entering there’s a darkness that envelopes you at first. The sun’s blazing light blinds you temporarily as you enter this club’s seedy black air. While much cooler, there’s still a kind of languid heat all its own within this building’s fire-baked adobe walls. The smell of sex, sweat, booze, and emptiness surrounds your red, lobster-like skin. You nearly glow in this place. As your eyes adjust you can finally take in the decadent landscape. Inter-dimensional debauchery in every corner; human, otherworldly, and robot alike intertwine on the centered dance floor as the grimy grooves overtake all senses. Creatures in all shapes and forms guzzle smoking, foaming drinks from beaker-like glasses, ingest copious amounts of glowing pills and inhale the green fumes that puff out from under strangely decorated face masks. Bodies are corrupted and violated at every whim as the heavy bass pushes the skin from the faces of the listless-looking souls. There’s something repulsive yet overwhelmingly addictive about this display. You indulge in a stranger’s foaming concoction and the room begins to waver. The madness and X-rated displays come into a more sonic focus; like the blood of a deep, penetrative wound that begins to coagulate around the opening. You temporarily stop worrying about bleeding to death and let go. You still may not make it, but the loss of blood offers a wooziness that is sickly relaxing. The green smoke emanating from a face mask makes it’s way up your nostrils and the sounds make their way through your pained pores and act as an aural aloe; soothing and cooling as you begin to move to the music. Space disco, intergalactic club bangers, and Italio dance-like bass pounding as you latch onto a stranger on the glowing dance floor. Is that blood under your feet? Or sweat? Maybe vomit. It doesn’t matter, because right now you’re letting yourself go.

This may very well be a mirage and those vultures may be pecking your eyes out at this very moment, but you don’t care. Purgatory has never felt so good.

Welcome to the dance club of the future, courtesy of Neon Indian’s Alan Palomo.

IMG_1427Neon Indian has been making woozy, drug-fueled, interplanetary dance music since 2009-2010. Psychic Chasm was this mix of melting tape machines put to lo-fi beats and waterlogged synths. It may not have been much as a whole, but it made for a debilitatingly intoxicating experience. It felt like a great preview of what Alan Palomo could be capable of. 2011s Era Extrana was that vision of retro-futuristic musical experimentation come to fruition. It was the perfect mix of Palomo’s experimental leanings with a more upfront pop sound. Then last year, after four years of waiting Neon Indian returned with the dance and club-fueled party album Vega Intl. Night School.

At first listen I was mildly disappointed. Looking back now I don’t know why, other than to say the cleaned up sound threw me off a bit. The broken tape deck sound was replaced with a much more pristine fidelity. I actually got the vibe that Alan Palomo was going for some modern, run-of-the-mill populist dance record. Neon Indian went legit, and I’m feeling bummed about it. Well, it took a few months but after going back to this sleeper album I can say without a doubt Neon Indian hasn’t gone legit. The sonics are bigger and better, but this is not a mainstream album. Under the beats and searing synth squall there’s a real seedy underbelly. “Annie” has an island vibe, like Sade produced by Nile Rodgers through a hazy head. It’s most certainly the poppiest thing from Mr. Palomo, but there’s also a certain sadness under the surface. “Street Level” is all sticky indiscretions and grimy alleyways. It’s like the Creature Cantina band getting their freak on with Giorgio Moroder. “Smut!” opens like a coke party in a condensation-covered bathroom stall, it’s participants having both the time of their life and at the lowest point of their existence simultaneously. “Slumlord’s Re-Lease” has a Miami Vice-meets-Italio Disco vibe, complete with a Sheila E percussion section and overwhelming synthesizer posturing. “The Glitzy Hive” is all Michael Jackson and El Debarge getting their early 80s freak on, with a touch of aged sonics for good measure. “News From The Sun(Live Bootleg)” closes this dank dance party with touches of Prince and the NPG on quaaludes.

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay at Vega Intl. Night School.

Neon Indian isn’t for everyone, I know that. It may come across as cheesy and cheap to some, while others just can’t get past the layers of hiss and muffled melodies. Hell, I’m sure there’s probably a million reasons to avoid Neon Indian, but I’ll be damned if I care. From the get go there was something about Palomo’s music that intrigued me. I think part of it was that underneath the slacker-ish music and aged, broken vibe of the songs Palomo seems to have a vision here. It’s not just clunky for clunky’s sake. The retro vibe is a big part of Alan Palomo and Neon Indian, at least to my ears. Vega Intl. Night School seems to be that vision come to fruition. It’s catchy pop music, but not at the expense of Palomo’s sun-baked, acid-burnt vision. If you were looking for an in with Neon Indian, this would be a good place to start. Work your way back from here.

 

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