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.
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