07 Apr 2015 — Henning Lahmann
Back in 2011, when the Internet was still young and the blogosphere alive (not kicking though), and words such as "hazy" and prefixes such as "psych-" were employed without shame, Leyna Noel put out an album with then-unsurpassed and massively influential LA-based imprint Not Not Fun. Both the name of her project and the name of the album, Psychic Reality and Vibrant New Age, were children of their time, a time when longish elaborations on the differences and resemblances between hypnagogic pop and chillwave were considered the pinnacle of music journalism. Not that it mattered: Vibrant New Age, timely as it was, would have graced the zeitgeist of any artistic epoch. Dark, eerie, danceable and yes, psychedelic, we became obsessed with "Fruit" and "Expla", songs that for a while would become essential ingredients of all out DJ sets. Having worked with the unforgotten Pocahaunted, put out a split with Amanda Brown's LA Vampires, and generally being part of the scene around Sun Araw and M. Geddes Gengras, Noel was obviously influenced by Southern California's psychedelic underground while at the same time serving as a precursor of the take on contemporary dance tropes that some would start calling – please forgive me – 'hipster house' shortly afterwards, with Brown's 100% SILK label as its creative focal point.
It's been four years but it feels like a decade ago. The musical landscape has shifted and, if anything, has grown increasingly cynical and jaded. Musicians that offer escape by evoking images of sundrenched beaches or summer nights aimlessly spent with friends and blunts still exist, but if they get any attention at all then it usually comes from a decidedly distanced, piercingly ironic standpoint. "Psych" as in psychopath, not psychedelia. It is, in other words, an interesting moment to release the follow-up of Vibrant New Age. Surprisingly, or perhaps not surprisingly at all, Chassis takes up the debut's motifs without getting stuck in creative stasis, instead presenting a careful evolvement of Noel's artistry. The predecessor's defining house beat is absent, but the ethereal cues are as pronounced as ever. This is still "psych-pop": Without a hint of irony, already the first track "Life is Long" sports mild distortion, a shuffling rhythm reminiscent of mid-80s charts pop, and the word "hazy" proudly chanted into the blurry, dreamlike and simple melody. "Harness", premiered below, is this album's "Expla": melancholic and mysterious, the song gently emerges from a carefully woven carpet of expanding synth chords, floating into the warm August night before it fades out with a quiet sigh. Just this once again, for five delicate minutes, no cynicism, no irony. Only bliss.
Chassis will be out via Intercoastal Artists on May 5.
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