Many of the albums we review offer a blend of genres (such as ambient-drone or electonic-experimental), but it’s unusual for a single work to incorporate as many references as Places, which threads in six out of the seven categories we cover. Piksel started as a classical violinist before moving into electronics, which explains the hybrid nature of her latest offering. The album was composed for a multi-media dance performance through Project Syntrex, which Piksel (Ieva Vaiti) founded in 2017 along with Amy Dang (visuals). Best enjoyed as a single track, its eleven mini-movements overlap each other like fluid dancers, two of whom are seen on the cover. Where does one person end and another begin? The illusion is central to the dance, extended to the timbres of this dynamic piece.
It all begins with a shimmer: a rising chord that hints at discord. Then the first deep, dark beat. It’s important to note that the half-hour piece is designed for dance, but not for clubs, although certain segments may be suitable for the rhythmic crowd. The anticipation grows through mood and drone until Places’ signature sound erupts: a beat that plays a trick on the ear, lowering the perception of all other sound for a nano-second in its wake. Even when vocals and broken glass enter the mix, this erasing effect is present. But soon this percussive segment begins to melt, which leads to a revelatory interlude: piano reverberations and crisp, clear violin. When these two collide, they breed a voice, a ticking clock ~ then an implosion of piano, synth and waves. The dancers fall to the floor, spent.
But then, following the plot line of popular prose, the heroes rise again, sparked by that drum, which nudges at their bodies like a dog’s nose against the body of its human companion, urging revival. The word “daydream” is bandied about, distorted and looped, sending the dancers into an Eno-like reverie, rising to their feet in curiosity and wonder, the world changing around them. A pulse emerges, draws closer; percussion falls like rain. The piece is meant to reflect “the conflict of migrating to an unknown space,” and Piksel’s music is a perfect reflection. A clock chooses to disregard its assigned tempo and enter into the dance; waves lap against the shore. The result is a feeling of resolution. Vaiti’s violin reemerges, a calming presence, retreating only when sure the dancers are safe, on a new shore, in a new place, like those who have been through fire and emerged as new creations. (Richard Allen)