10.28.21 by Matty McPherson
Oh so you too have been gripped by Pixel Grip’s club-pop tour-de-force (and non-tape release) Arena? Enough that you’re contemplating road tripping across the country to catch them in any club, basement, or dancehall that will hold the trio and their incessant, high-wire BPM shabangs this October? Power to ya! For me though, there’s just gotta be an easier way to sate that lack of a west coast tour — and OF COURSE it’s in the form of a C120 from 2020 that also happens to be a most engrossing framework for how the trio pulls out the stops.
Live at the MCA (2.21.20) is an engrossing testament to the strength of this trio. Right now, not a lot of club acts are even contemplating the two hour tape as a viable means to translate their live mixes into a bonafide message. Yet, Pixel Grip has an intrinsic willingness to revel in the liminality between their tracks. Many of the star moments of this tape are not high octane BPM fests that you scream back the words to while pulling off some sort of risqué feat. More often, tracks saunter and slink about. These instrumentals Tyler Ommen and Jonathon Freund cook up deserve to (fuck)wrench themselves into your head. They build a necessary space for enigmatic master of ceremonies, Rita Lukea and their voice, to loop and echo, lingering from corner to corner of the dancefloor. It’s a technique that makes the tape function as a cohesive live DJ mix; brimming with charisma throughout its peaks and valleys while always perpetually on the brink of a surprise.
And what’s more of a surprise than early renditions of Arena — Ray Noble and Alpha to name a couple — arriving as glistening boilerplates. Their loops are divine, and the fact that they take up a substantial amount of time on the album imbues them with an ethereal, timeless quality. Meanwhile, on the fly “dub” mixes of tracks from 2019’s Heavy Handed amp up the bass and bounce characteristics offering genuine moments of club mania.
I honestly haven’t more to say about this besides reinforcing that for a two-hour mix, this is airtight euphoria for an act that deserves that opening slot next to Special Interest.