Sunday, January 9, 2011

Northcape reviews PIXSID

Northcape's blog review of Atoms Apart on the album's release...

PIXSID is an intercontinental collaboration between Sid (aka. DJ Sid-the Apocalypze) based in San Francisco, USA, and Pixieguts (aka. Australian vocalist Marie Craven), and Atoms Apart is their debut album, broadly downtempo hip-hop beats, trip-hop and electronica with Pixieguts vocals. The album also features a remix by Sheffield, UK-based electronic producer Adrian Carter and was mastered by Canadian DJ Crimson Death. Lyrics on ‘The Sea’ are by Canadian Andrei Masliev. The title is therefore very appropriate given the huge geographical distance between the collaborators but Atoms Apart conclusively demonstrates that distance is no barrier to electronic collaboration (maybe there’s a reference to quantum mechanics here?). This is an album that could only have been made in the 21st century but before I get too distracted by the process, it’s the music itself that’s the point.

There really are some great tunes on this album and Marie’s voice has a fantastic clarity that has proven in the past to work with a huge range of electronic collaborators. It has to be said though that this particular collaboration is among the best that she has ever done. DJ Sid’s electronica is firmly rooted in classic hip-hop and downtempo electronica such as Portishead and Morcheeba. Sid also successfully cultivates the classic vinyl feel so successfully evoked by artists such as DJ Shadow, whose spirit can definitely be heard here. The production is full of subtle analogue warmth, giving the music texture through imperfection and a perfectly evoked modern urban melancholy. The soulful distant horn samples on the instrumental ‘Paper Hearts’ and the vocal track ‘The Sea’ for example gain force through their previous use in this genre. The superbly deep sine melody in the intro to the smooth ‘Soft and Hard’ is another case in point. Across the whole album the instrumental elements have an instinctive depth and power which attest to DJ Sid’s talent as a composer. The solid beats are equally important to the success of this album as well as its overall sound, with a punchy hip-hop feel and some creative drum processing.

I also like the use of remixes of some tracks, which helps to give the album a feeling of coherence. Adrian Carter’s remix of ‘Lullaby’ is particularly arresting as the most experimental point on the album, using vocal samples from Pixieguts as the rhythmic element under burbling acid synths.

Atoms Apart is a very solid album indeed with a deep, chilled downbeat and thoughtful feel to it – an appealing soundtrack to the concrete jungle. If I had to pick out one track it would have to be the absolutely beautiful ‘Wish I’, which boasts a soaring, emotive vocal melody and lyrics ‘wish I was dreaming again, wish I was in that other place’, swept along by waves of synth textures and slow beats. This track is in fact provided in two versions, ‘Wish I’ and ‘Wish I (reprise)’ and my only complaint is that given the effectiveness of the guitar introduced in the second version it definitely should be longer! I really could listen to this track again and again. Highly recommended.