By Ji Won Park
There’s a lot to take in on “Dark Sight of the Moon”, the latest release from San Francisco based singer-songwriter Micropixie. Wait–scratch that; the whole “Micropixie” project itself is a lot to process. After all, there’s a good chance anyone who records under the name “Micropixie” isn’t just picking something that sounds cool; a visit to her Bandcamp page reveals the subtitle “one little alien.” Before I could ask for directions, I had to immerse myself in this strange world and give myself the luxury of being unfamiliar with her music, which is somewhat ironic considering that the narrative across the three records that she’s released so far has been about “an extraterrestrial who has come to Earth to experience life as a human being.” I gathered as much through a brief email exchange with her. The rest of it was up to me to connect the dots.
On the third installment in a series of tight-knit concept albums (the previous two being “Alice in Stevie Wonderland” and “The Good, The Beige, and the Ugly”), it appears as though the period of immersion is over and the feelings of “childlike innocence” are overtaken by a sense of maturity. Over lush breakbeats and careful instrumentation, Micropixie and her collaborator, Spanish musician and producer Paco Serén, create a surreal space where she channels meditations on various social justice issues and “life on Earth.”
There are moments of darkness on the record, where the fabric of the music is held together by whining strings and damp percussion. The track “New Year’s Day” (which was recently covered by the New York Times) employs a slow tempo and reggae-like beat that churns over six minutes. You can’t look away because this is a balancing act, where the optimism of “New Year’s Day” is supposed to act as a counterbalance to the all-too-realness of the world we live in.
Some of the inspiration on a couple tracks is blunt – “Como Mínimo” translates from Spanish as “at least” and takes a feminist stance, incorporating phrases that are all too familiar in the #MeToo era, such as “it’s only locker room talk.” The lack of subtlety works its way into a breakbeat halfway into the song that she rides effortlessly with trailing ad-libs. It’s definitely one way to take a direct approach at things; if anything, it’s pure ear candy.
There are other moments of directness on the record. “But The Queen” features her singing in an entirely made up language; the song is about gentrification. On the title track, she sings to someone, “It might sound a bit weird but could I use your body just to meet my pain?” She puts the question into the air with the acknowledgement that the statement is blunt, but she understands the importance of bringing attention to it. But apart from the vocal delivery, the production (like the other songs on the record) is thought out and spectacularly arranged. Consisting of two distinct parts, the latter half breaks away from the psychological interiority of the individual and transforms into something greater. The mid-tempo drum groove carries the music back into outer space: “we’re going to watch you from afar,” she promises.
A good portion of the tracks in the tracklist are interludes. Some are voiceover clips while some contain short instrumentals. “Planet Cleanser” is a pretty guitar odyssey while “Tears for Years” is a short string ballad. “Exquisite Insomnia” turns out to be a six-minute interlude spaceship interlude that would have made 2015 Logic proud. And despite the choice for traditional instrumentation, there’s plenty of drum machines and sci-fi foley that fill the spaces on the album, making for a strange yet alluring soundscape.
Throughout it all, there’s no losing sight of the conceptual structure of the record. Even the Blur cover of the song “The Universal” has been carefully picked to tie in with the theme of the cosmos. This time around it’s fully fleshed out, with warm vocables that fill the opening spaces of the song (and throughout the track as well) which I thought to be a satisfying touch.
The most important thing about this track was that it flipped the sentiment of the original song on its head and turned it into an anthem for optimism. Take the following lines for example: “No one here is alone / satellites in every home,” she sings. Originally supposed to commentary on technology and its implications for producing a dystopian society, under the warm light of her discretion it no longer sounds bitter and taunting. “It really could happen,” she sings earnestly.
It’s not hard to believe.
Ji Won Park is a Korean-Canadian writer based in Toronto. His writing covers music and culture. His work has appeared on online publications such as Molasses Mag and Mothership. He is also the founder of Song Atlas, another music-based online publication focused on discussions in music as well as approaching writing as a form of art in itself, rather than pure journalism.
Check out “Dark Side of the Moon” by Micropixie on Bandcamp.
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