Pixelord, Iron and Cream

[Leisure System]

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Although you wouldn’t make the connection from listening to each project, Pixelord is the work of Alexey Devyanin, who produces as Gultskra Artiklr. That fact is enough to give audiences a new outlook on the two previous Pixelord EPs (Fish Touch and Lucid Freaks), as well as his many appearances on Russian beatmaker compilations over the last year. Unlike Pixelord, Gultskra Artikler has explored experimental ambient, folk, and jazz, using found sound, choirs, ethnic instruments, and almost everything not found in Pixelord’s swirling synthetic hip-hop dissections across albums for Lampse, Miasmah, and Other Electricities. Artists working simultaneously in wildly different styles is nothing new, but usually there are tell-tale signs that carry over. Pixelord, though, is an entirely fresh alter-ego, with no semblance to Devyanin’s previous work.

Early Pixelord releases like Lucid Freaks, had a tendency to be brash, coming across like wild 8-bit frenzies. Coupled with the proliferation of this sound in the past year, talented artists struggle with legitimacy and over saturation. Almost in response to this, Iron and Cream on Leisure System is a much more subtle and mature take on electronic swagger. While the beats are still thick and sway with that particular shuffling pattern so prevalent these days, the melodies are more restrained and more emotive, which reminds me of the heartfelt electronics of Groundislava and even Joy O. The title track is quite emblematic of the upbeat, house-inflected compositions of that latter composer, eschewing hip-hop rhythms for a rapturous anthem with swirling synths.

“Cycloferon” is more akin to the sound Pixelord is known for, its deep gurgling bass, round kick drums, and arpeggiated melodies careening throughout with a modicum of restraint that avoid becoming completely overblown and superfluous. “Radiozilla” is even better in this regard, where the melodic synths are in lockstep syncopation with the beat and provide a rolling monster of modern hip-hop production. Showing an interesting counterpoint to the previous uptempo and wild beats preceding it, the sweeping textures employed on closer “In The Mine” could be seen as Devyanin circling back to Gultskra Artikler by way of Burial, with it’s cinematic pace and floating vocal manipulations. It’s a gorgeous capper and succeeds in warping this new electronic frontier to be not only unusual but also starkly revealing and contemplative.

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