On Neu! ’92, James Brooks and Josh Clancy, the Minneapolis duo operating under the name Elite Gymnastics, offer electronic music with elements of pop, chillwave, gaze, house, and hip-hop, but not enough of one to be forced into following a predefined sound. It’s no surprise that they self-release their free EPs on Tumblr via their own Psychedelic Surf Club label and shy away from aligning themselves with any distinct genre or musical movement, save last year when they called their debut EP Real Friends “chillwave” in an admitted effort to grab some of the genre’s blog-driven buzz.
Coming off of last summer’s Real Friends, Elite Gymnastics have shown growth, most notably in regards to James Brooks’ vocals. On Real Friends, Brooks’ voice was caked in reverb and auto-tune and often ended up lost in the mix. While effects and echo are still present on Neu! ’92, Brooks’ voice is elevated—at times almost too much—and his abilities as a singer and songwriter emerge. On the love-and-cocaine ode “Montana,” we hear more distinction in the singer’s voice as he groans, “I don’t want to go to school/I just want to stay here/Get high every night with you” and “Stay here forever/Lay here together in the dark.”
Neu! ’92’s four tracks span just less than 16 minutes and offer a glimpse into the band’s influences, which are more in line with Washed Out and Lil B (“Thank You Based God” appears in the release’s gorgeous liner notes) than the Neu! referenced in the EP’s title and cover art. There are disparate influences and styles on display during Neu! ’92’s short runtime. That’s not to say there isn’t a unifying thread running through the EP: Synths, drum machines, ’80s and ’90s nostalgia, and sampling are all central here.