Melodic mutants and musical micro-beings

Rupert Bottenberg, Montreal Mirror, 5 mai 2005

The best way to describe the music of Brooklyn-based trio-plus Mixel Pixel, in the sound-free print media, might simply be to point at the little bonhommes on the cover of their latest CD, Contact Kid (a few are shown here). Drawn by band member Rob Corradetti, a visual artist as much as musical, they’re mutant chimeras, lo-fi but obsessively worked out, cute and goofy with just a hint of creepiness—a description of which Corradetti approves, for both the critters and the tunes.

“At first glance,” says Corradetti, “they look like a bunch of little doodles. Not to say they aren’t, but if you bother to look closer, you see they’re all very different, and that maybe some of them look sad, or perverted in nature, or that one is a lobotomized Homer Simpson or a shitting zombie with a top hat.”

“I think the same can be said of the music we record, in that at first it sounds like a bunch of lo-fi doodles—though the word lo-fi is beginning to make me ill. Kinda weird stuff, kinda ’80s, kinda rock. But if you listen closer, you might start seeing the music in a different light.”

Seeing the music? Sure, just look at the tunes. “Sometimes I think the only thing they have to do with music is that you can hear them. Really, I don’t think of them as songs in the traditional sense. They’re like little micro-beings to me, and when we are recording them, I wrestle with them day and night.”

While no doubt active and well-fed, Corradetti might be out of his league wrestling shitting zombies all by his lonesome. And just as he has Kaia Wong and Matty Kaukeinen to make music with (Mixel Pixel actually began as a tape-trade project in the mid-’90s), he’s democratic enough to share the visual aspect (CD art and “T-shirts, comics, lip balm and other odds and ends”) with several wacky talents — his doll-maker girlfriend Lauren Winslow, paperrad.org’s Ben Jones and retardriot.com’s Noah Lyon, plus a video team for the multimedia live show.

This collective quality is what earns Mixel Pixel a legitimate “folk” tag, in the handmade, for-us-by-us sense, as opposed to the NYC anti-folk bin they’re sometimes tossed into by lazy rock crits. “We never stepped into a music studio, or had some guy named Lenny play a guest solo on our CD. We’re all self-taught musicians and basically free radicals living inside the nurturing NYC bosom. We rock it with the Woody Guthrie mindset, all day, every day. I’ll write 6,000 songs if I can before I’m through.”

And will any of those 6,000 be any less confounding than the melodic micro-beings on Contact Kid? Hopefully not. “I think our music attempts to convey that there is no Wizard of Oz running the show, that there is only wire and the wire is rotten and chewed through by rats. The messages only get through on ancient, rotten, rat-infested wires, and are mostly garbled and often misinterpreted.”