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Pixel: Reminder

If you're like me, you find that a lot of jazz music tends to sound too stagnant and similar, which essentially means that hearing one track by an artist is the same as hearing his or her entire discography because there's rarely any diversity. Again, this is just my stance. Fortunately, though, every so often a band comes along that manages to challenge and exceed my expectations in this respect. Pixel is such a group; they pack a lot of fire, variation, and quirkiness into their debut album, Reminder, which reminds jaded listeners that you never quite know when something special will emerge.

A Norwegian quartet led by the bassist/vocalist Ellen Andrea Wang, they combine "indie rock energy with the improvisational flexibility of a post-bop combo… [to paint] dramatic, emotionally charged scenes." Interestingly, all four members are established as solo artists within the Scandinavian jazz scene, and when not fronting this band, Wang fronts two progressive rock bands, Synkoke and White Willow. All in all, the way poppy vocals are intertwined with invigorating, lush music (a rare combination, for sure) that makes Reminder stand out from the pack.

"Prelude" introduces the album with beautiful humming over restrained bass lines, and the track melts into "Home," which incorporates more instruments during its second half, and then finally into "Esset," which increases the intensity and complexity while maintaining accessibility. This three-part suite, with its gradual build-up and perfected direction, makes for an incredible way to start the record. With "Call Me," Wang sings with surprising aggression, as if she's ranting about a misogynistic relationship within the context of a 1940s noir film, and her method for having the melody match the notes of the horns is quite clever.

One of the highlights of the album is "Wake Up," an intense and catchy jazz rock track filled with stunning harmonies; in fact, Wang's beautiful voice closely resembles that Dutch singer, Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering, Devin Townsend Project, Ayreon). Also, each note and instrument really feels perfectly placed, as if they share one mind with the vocals, and this constant shift in dynamics is exceptional. The album continues to impress with its bursts of colorful excitement as it moves toward its somber, masterful conclusion, "An Apple in the County Hill."

Reminder is a unique record, which is just about the greatest attribute a musical piece can possess considering how manufactured and generic so much music is these days. Jazz enthusiasts (as well as fans of rock/pop) will no doubt enjoy what Pixel does here, and those who usually find the core genre to be too stationary will be pleasantly surprised here. Pixel is definitely a band to keep an eye on as they continue to grow and impress.

Track Listing
1. Prelude
2. Home
3. Esset
4. Call Me
5. She Knows
6. Wake Up
7. Waltz 1
8. Hvor Bie Den Avi
9. I Hang
10. An Apple in the Country Hill

Added: August 9th 2012
Reviewer: Jordan Blum
Related Link: Band Website
Hits: 2499
Language: english

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