To the left, my brother struggles at a game of PuyoPop Fever on his Nintendo DS. On the opposite side of the notebook, my friend Jen sinks a hole-in-one on her PSP during a round of Hot Shots Golf. While this is going on, the video game-sampling experimental rock outfit Mixel Pixel beams from the ghastly speakers on my iBook. All is perfect in the mobile digital worldâ?¦
Contact Kid, the third full-length from Brooklyn's (by way of Delaware) eccentric art-pop Mixel Pixel is as dancey as it is fun and dangerously hip. Although every dumpster-diving, tight jean-clad indie rocker is experimenting with a lousy Casio, Mixel Pixel still maintain an inimitable sound as they dance around the edges of lo-fi rock and an appropriate amount of 8-bit ambience.
The eerie opener, "I Am The Contact Kid," audibly illustrates that comparisons to material released in the early Sub-Pop days are more accurate than synth-driven acts like Thunderbirds Are Now! or Volcano, I'm Still Excited!! (I should throw in chk-chk-chk to obtain that third exclamation point in a row). Their sound comes alive on "Mantis Rock," and if you have a copy of Beck's Gameboy-influenced Hell Yes EP in your possession, you can obtain an idea of just what Mixel Pixel's sound entails.
In any instance, when a group of musicians incorporates a digital aspect to their sound it often overshadows the other recorded talents. In Mixel Pixel's defense, there is elaborate guitar involvement that often formulates their dual genre tag of "electronic/folk." The latter half of the 10-track album emphasizes the strings portion more so than on songs like "Little Wolverine" and the aptly titled "Tell Tale Drum Machine," which both sport their share of digitally-recorded instruments in an upbeat fashion, even a toe-tapping keyed solo in the former.
The autobiographical album standout, "At The Arcade," is a love song implanted in the trio's natural habitat that sports one of the catchiest instrumental intros of the year and successfully mixes the traditional instruments with the digital for the first time on the record. After enjoying their diverse and expansive talents during the instrumental "Gas House Gables," my hometown is called out on "Pittsburgh Brain" and the closer "The Drag City Starlet," which happens to be two of the few cohesive songs on Contact Kid proving that the members are endowed musicians and are not relying on the arpegeiator to create the tunes for them.
Mixel Pixel is a little rough on the edges, and in a musical era when synth is as popular now as it was over two decades ago, it could be written off easily by just about anyone who is tired of having this revival shoved deep down their ears. Taken lightly and without too much disparagement and you're listening to one of the more pleasurable releases of the year.