Pixel: Mantle (Raster-Noton)
Anyone who’s had a cellphone for more than a few years and works with audio or a computer with speakers knows that once upon a time it was nearly impossible to avoid picking up the sound of your phone’s signal with the network — a rhythmic, chugging, gritty digital sound not unlike that of a modem handshake (minus the noise blast). Mantle seems to harness that essence of digital communication and noise in ways that are alternately immersive and head-bobbing. Jon Egeskov’s fourth album as Pixel starts off with a digital sputter of noise. Without sounding too dismissive, because the album is solid, Pixel’s aesthetic is what I’d call “Raster-Noton by numbers.” All of the standard elements are there: white noise, crisp digital rhythm with staggered kicks, high-pitched bleeps, sine wave low-end bass bloops. But there are some really exciting moments here, like the sputtering staccato static that kicks off “Brown Shirt,” before it evolves into a rhythmic chugger that no doubt does his label bosses proud. Typically those more sparse and fragile moments are few and far between, but by virtue of how isolated they are, they stand out in a good way; the utter lack of reverb on many of the sounds gives it an immediate and claustrophobic feeling, as if the sounds are impossible to get away from. Along those lines, the breakdown in the center of “Nestling Screen” is a nice respite from the crowded noisetones of the rest of the track; its skittering, delicate rhythm, joined before long by a relentless drone of white noise on the surface, speaks to Egeskov’s knack for syncopation and contrast. While his toolkit and sonic palette don’t necessarily set Pixel so far apart from the Raster-Noton pack (Byetone, Noto, Frank Bretschneider, to name a few), he certainly has his finger on the same glitchy pulse. Ten years and four albums in, and there’s no doubt that he knows what he’s doing.