Switched On – Piksel: Places (Modularfield)

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Places is one-third of a multimedia project by Syntrex. Described as ‘an interdisciplinary collective exploring the sense of transition’, it is equal parts contemporary dance (Magnus Westwell), projected animations (Amy Dang) and live music (Piksel herself).

Syntrex: PLACES – Pickle Factory from Amy Dang on Vimeo.

Piksel, real name Ieva Vaiti, is a Lithuanian musician and producer based in London, whose disciplines include classical violin and electronics, with an ever-increasing film score portfolio. The half-hour long soundtrack for Places brings both her specialities together, presented for listening either in eleven separate tracks or one mixed whole.

What’s the music like?

Both descriptive and ambient. Like all good descriptive scores, this is music that as well as fitting the specification works on its own feet.

The track titles are strongly represented by the music. Walk In sets the expansive scene, while Boxes gives a vivid representation of heavy cubes being pushed around, with white noise and electronics squeezing the sound. Breathing senses the wide open air, Travel has a pulsing bass drum – but She Ghetto is rather disarming, the quarter tones and sighing vocals working together to heighten anxiety.

This is ultimately calmed in the musical hug that is Serenity, offsetting the previous tension with weather-based ambience. Time is a little less calm as it shuts off quite dramatically, but that makes way for Home, the jewel in the crown, where Vaiti plays a richly coloured violin solo that soars over the textures.

Does it all work?

Yes. Places is strongly suggestive in its musical descriptions, meaning the listener can approach it without knowing anything of the project to which it contributes.

Ieva Vaiti’s classical and electronic sensibilities work off each other really well, so that the result is a piece of work suiting both approaches.

Is it recommended?

Yes. It works equally well either listening to the divided tracks or the continuous half hour, where the sense of departure and homecoming is heightened.

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Switched On – Emme: Into The Darkness (Modularfield)

What’s the story?

Berlin-based Argentinian Emme releases Into The Darkness, an album looking at the connection between intimate thought and the vastness of outer space. In the space of seven tracks and 36 minutes her music looks to reflect these contrasts through close-up observations and big sonic spaces.

What’s the music like?

Not as dark as the title implies, with a satisfying blend of movement and stillness. Insert The Chip and Earth Calling might be remote soundscapes suspended in air, but second track Discovery is the clincher. As it starts you might relax into thinking this will be a very slow moving, star-gazing album, but then the beat drops and the perception changes immediately. With this kinetic energy at her disposal Emme develops Into the Darkness as a dub-infused journey, while Blank Point goes further still, underpinned by a broken beat with distortion overlapping its broad riff.

As the album develops several ‘80s influences are revealed – Blancmange and OMD among them – but Emme forges an individual path while including these. The expansive XH-28:A is a case in point, as it breaks down to a solo from a plucked string instrument – mandolin or violin, I suspect – and is soon joined by an analogue set of drum fills.

The biggest track, When the Wind Whispers, feels like a collection of different viewpoints, with no drums but a restless movement between different ideas and timbres.

Does it all work?

Most of the time. There is a lot of variety here, almost with the danger of the musical styles becoming disjointed – and at 36 minutes it does feel like an extended EP rather than a fully blown album. That said, Into The Darkness has impressive ambition and despite the moments of thick ambience, Emme conjures up impressive tension and restlessness.

Is it recommended?

Yes, for the consistently interesting corners to its slightly ragged construction. Emme’s spirit of discovery should be applauded and noted for future releases.

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