Pixel Grip – Heavy Handed

It can become a little exhausting to read the same tired descriptions of music that plays in genre with Heavy Handed, the debut album from Pixel Grip. Words like ‘shimmering’ and ‘glittering’ are ubiquitous terms when it comes to synth-driven music with ambition beyond the flimsy desire to party. Thankfully Pixel Grip offer up the best definition of their album. They call this stuff ‘Disco Goth’ and that’s pretty much game over. They’ve won. Let’s talk about it for a bit.

Yes, there’s a tongue in cheek when it comes to a claim like ‘We’re Disco Goth’ but with every spin of these eleven tracks it’s clear that the trio of Rita Lukea, Jonathon Freund, and Tyler Ommen oscillate between the sardonic and the sincere. This stuff occupies a space between dance and reflection. The term ‘club adjacent’ also comes to mind – but many of these tracks cut their teeth in the clubs and parties of Chicago. The compulsion to move is not small.

Chicago is a city synonymous with music, and more recently with EDM – yet the tones which Pixel Grip explore sound more European than American. Moments of Italian House and English EDM pass through German disco vibes. We could guess at the heroes of the the trio, but that takes our eye from the originality of their scope. ‘

A track like ‘Diamond’ shows the best of all elements. Production preserves the cut edges of carbon. Rita Lukea’s vocal work here is amongst the best of her moments on the album; she inhabits a number of places, and she makes them all her own. There’s theater, but it’s not too showy. She steals nothing of the focus from her bandmates. Polyrhythms produce a surprising drift of themes. Freund and Ommen craft something magical from the process. It’s great stuff, dark, and also celebratory.

This album doesn’t necessarily offer a narrative arc across the sequence of tracks, but there’s a definite trajectory that makes the collection feel like a body of work that was designed to belong together – these are not just tracks assembled for market because of previous dance floor success. Heavy Handed feels like a manifesto of inclusion and celebration. Any moments of explicit opposition are delivered by simply being more beautiful than the darkness being confronted.

Despite the flow that moves through the album there are moments that offer genuine pause, and calls for instant replay. Spectacularly trashy ‘Golden Moses’ is a glam, strutty piece. “I get so down” sings Lukea, but it’s a phrase that has the lift of gospel. Immediately after this track is ‘Twentyfour’, which in one hand is a reflection of mortality, time, and compromise with demands of another, or the environment – and on the other is a fucking great bit of pouty disco with a bass line that disputes everything in it’s path “I’ll never be what you had in mind.” is a phrase that draws a line under something that can truly never be. Oh, and there’s some spoken-word French poetry/rap delivered beneath the mix… so y’know – that’s sexy too.

Heavy Handed is an album of alternating currents. Yes, it does shimmer, and it does shine, but it also reserves the right to glow, reflect, and extinguish all lights. Proper disco goth.


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