Pixel — We Are All Small Pixels
(Cuneiform Rune 372, 2013, CD)
by Peter Thelen, Published 2013-11-11
This Norwegian quartet truly has a magical sound unlike anyone else out there right now, and this, their newest release just begs for repeat listens. With a powerful string bass presence, a beautiful voice, and seven of the eleven compositions to her credit, Ellen Andrea Wang commands the operation with a lean, jazzy, and somewhat chamber-esque vibe that’s immediately accessible, intensely melodic, and just blasts warmth and brilliance out from your speakers. While drummer / percussionist Jon Audun Baar has just the right element of support for every piece here – he even penned “Sigma,” one of the album’s most busy and magnificent instrumental workouts – it’s the front line of Harald Lassen (saxes) and Jonas Vemoy (trumpet) that really give Pixel much of its character, either when working together to create fundamental chords (sometimes with Wang’s vocalizing as well, as on closer “Time”), or blowing some splendid solos. The lack of a single chordal instrument anywhere in the lineup (no guitar or keys here anywhere), gives the proceedings a bit of chamber character at times, and a sort of ‘little big-band’ quality at other junctures, but it’s Wang’s vocals and lyrics that give all those cuts featuring her voice an immediate and undeniable approachability. And one would be remiss not to mention one very special cut “Easter Song,” penned by Lassen; even though it’s barely over a minute long, it’s a beautiful textural workout with sax providing an energized backdrop motif for some stunning harmonizing between voice and trumpet. Play that one again! All said, compared to their previous disc Reminder from last year, the group seems to be more comfortable within their sound this time out, and more inclined toward using their most valuable asset – Wang’s voice. I can’t give this one a high enough recommendation.
Freedom to Spend Unearths June Chikuma's Archives – Jun (June) Chikuma is well known for her video game and anime soundtracks, but she also released an album of experimental electronic music back in 1986 called Divertimento where she indulged the kind of spontaneity that wouldn't work in a soundtrack. RVNG Int'l label Freedom to Spend is bringing this overlooked item to broader attention with a deluxe reissue. » Read more
Seaprog 2019 Lineup Almost Complete – The Seaprog festival in Seattle is scheduled for June 7-9 this year, and they've announced their lineup of performers. The revitalized Trettioåriga Kriget will cap Friday night, perennial favorites Marbin are on Saturday, and District 97 will finish off the fest on Sunday night. In support, they've booked a stellar variety of artists from the Northwest and around the world, including EchoTest, Markus Reuter and Trey Gunn, and the live debut of the amazing Troot project. » Read more
You Can Be Part of an Ambient Electronic Project – The Gesture of History is a new electronic project put together by Sam Rosenthal of Black Tape for a Blue Girl, Steve Roach, and violist Sam Shadow. The music started as an instrumental track Rosenthal was working on for a Black Tape album, but took on a life of its own and demanded further enhancements. The majority of the funds raised will go to manufacturing costs for LP and CD editions, as well as other items as detailed on the Kickstarter page. » Read more
Jazz Composer Mark Lomax, II Releases Epic 12CD Set – In addition to being a fine jazz drummer, Dr. Mark Lomax, II is a composer in residence at Ohio State University, where he has been very busy on the compositional front. The year 2019 is the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first ship bringing African slaves to North America, and in commemoration of this, Lomax has produced 400: An Afrikan Epic, a 12 volume set of CDs featuring a variety of different musical ensembles. » Read more