American Online
Palma Violet






Anthocianin aplenty. That’s the visible gist of American Online’s eight-track EP Palma Violet in a coconut shell, but if this is the principle to obey to, you would miss one hell of a lot… and not much at all at the same time. How could this possibly be: how do you simultaneously miss much and next to nothing at all? That’s the magic of the Birmingham, UK-based artist, and its undeniable vitality doesn’t come without its voodoo curse. Released in June 2015 on Florida’s vapor central DMT Tapes and available to fetch and stream at Bandcamp as always, Palma Violet inherits a cheeky concept or innuendo that isn’t advertised by the label, but announced in a recent tweet by American Online who states that the short runtime of the EP is the equivalent to the relative shortness of British summers. Fair enough, and comprehensible on top of it. But don’t be mistaken: Palma Violet is brutally short, clocking in at a mere 13 minutes and 20 seconds. This short a visit at the dentist is always a good thing, but the oral prestidigitation of a dentist doesn’t match the aural curation skills of American Online. The EP enshrines stupefying synth-and-guitar agglutinations, the catchiest hooks from the 80’s, magenta beaches as well as towering bass slaps. But time – or the lack thereof – is their enemy. Since time is my friend: here is a meticulous look at all eight tracks of Palma Violet.


The opener oozes along in the shape of the sporophyte Summer On Repeat (1996), a gemstone of 90 seconds that has been reviewed in-depth in a recent Vapor Vertebrae edition, and the sentiment remains: the vermillion synth percolations, the New Age-oid Rhodes piano helixes and potassium-covered bassline altogether create a cajoling serration of melancholia and Miami-esque gamut, bursting at the seams with that 80’s feeling despite the self-proclaimed year of 1996. The follow-up Third Base remains in this guitar-accentuated megafauna, revving up both the tempo and the luminosity of the synths. And let’s not forget the polyphonous "just one more kiss" pleas that remind more of a state of neoteny than the admixed saxophone ever could. The adjacent Sunset City turns out to be a rather soothing place, with its synth guitars and gregarious granuloma shuttling between rural rusticity and a downtown high-rise hypanthium of the rubicund kind. Interestingly enough, the fade-out phase begins when the sax is trying to protrude – or enhance? – the atmosphere. A quirky omission, the aural equivalent to a paywall. Situated next is Atlas, a gorgeous synth syncytium whose lozenge bubbles, staccato bassline and electropositive Rhodes rhizomes let the listener beg for a much longer runtime… one minute and four seconds are the equivalent to the democracy in Pyongyang.


The second half of Palma Violet remains in the same area color-wise and conceptually, which at the same time refers to the brutal shortness of the material. As if by commando, Summer Breakup jitters along, a 45 sec set of molecules made of slippy synth slides, caudal bass protrusions and guitars whose kineticism scythes through the oceanic ribcage. But like an alkaliphilic mirage, the fun is over all too soon. Go Home (It’s Over) rectifies the situation. Being the longest track with a duration of over two and a half minutes, it is here where American Online is able to replace the school of eager topiary (cutting shrubbery) with horticultural landscapes, thereby letting the listener soak in the Japanese BGM-like guitars, the multiple stacks of synth flitters, mixed vox, elasticized lasers and handclap-infested drum fusillades. This vitreous masterstroke is so enchanting that even American Online falls prey to its allure, letting its hieratic helix run ad infinitum… in the given timeframe of the EP, that is. The title track Palma Violet meanwhile augments its bongo-filled stature with downwards-spiraling pentatonic prism particles, stringed fibroblasts and sinewed basslines before One Last Kiss (For The Cameras) returns to bright daytime: sun-soaked rotoscoping, piercing yttrium synths, wobbling interferometries and a punchy immediacy round the short EP off with a cinematic outlook onto the dream beach before your very own reality hits you like a meteor.


It is incredibly hard to address the discrepancies between the patterns and textures on the one hand and the time-related restrictions that hit and harm Palma Violet on the other, for it is the former elements that trigger all the right synapses in the world, and the latter that withdraw the orthochromatic field of vision. The short crispness of the material reminds of torture, for the agglutinated synths and curated hooks are almost entirely luring and great, but once the listener adjusts to the lilting peritoneum, iconoclasm strikes and replaces the rhombohedral reality with a relatedly biomorphic, but similarly short song. Accretion or attrition? Both happen at the same time, during almost every song, and this fact is mostly astonishing, even for me. Short Vaporwave songs tend to work, or else they wouldn’t exist. Even if the original source itself is slowed down, the result can be equally short and debonair. But a complete EP with such short and utterly enthralling vignettes is definitely not for everyone. A lot of things depends on the expectation of the listener as well: if American Online had advertised this EP as a collection of skits, cuts, visions, mirages, segues and B-sides, chances were higher that these limitations would be accepted, as they would have been taken into account right from the get-go. But even though the artist has spilled the beans by matching the short runtime with the average length of a British summer, this shortness reaches different dimensions once the eight songs rush by. This could be the parable of life: short and sweet. Whether true or not, American Online has taught us a magnificently entertaining lesson anyway.


Further listening and reading:


Vaporwave Review 100: American Online – Palma Violet (2015). Originally published on Jun. 27, 2015 at