micropixie :: Alice in Stevie Wonderland
Back in 1982, I went to see the movie E.T. four times. My favorite time was at a drive-in movie theater where the full moon hung, what seemed like, just inches above the celluloid full moon that Elliot and the friendly alien rode their bike through in the Halloween scene. Sure, Spielberg's Hollywood tear-jerker was an over-the-top, sentimental commentary on being an outsider in American society, but that didn't stop me from bursting into tears every time it came around to the part when Elliot and E.T. were both hooked up to all the machines and dying.
So, maybe I've always had a soft spot for alien stories. In any case, listening to the loungey, minimalist, heartbreaking journey taken by micropixie (the alter-ego of San Francisco-based writer/filmmaker single beige female on her debut album, Alice in Stevie Wonderland, is kind of like listening to the outpourings of a hipper, cleverer E.T. with access to slick beats. Like other great concept albums, i.e., The Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, this album's tracks stand on its own but come together to tell a powerful story. It is the mythical tale of an alien who comes to Earth to try on the human experience, confronts doubt and disappointment, and who eventually learns - with the help of tabla bols - to speak the language of love.
Co-written & cleanly co-produced by neo eon one and micropixie herself, the music behind the alien's finely-accented vocals ranges from minimal beats to live orchestrations and samples featuring everything from tabla (Robin Sukhadia) to harmonica (Damien Masterson to puja bells (micropixie's terrestrial mom: Kundan Shah). This album defies genre, but has serious nods to Stevie Wonderesque funk, Nitin Sawhney's eclectic world beat and Air's electronic dreamscape. While it does pick-up at certain points, this is definitely an album for chilling out after a loud night at the club or any kind of late-night session.
micropixie's vocal stylings go from quiet narration to offbeat spoken word to sweet singing, aided by "the innit choir." The quirky sense of humor and otherworldly vibe of the album makes you think of a Desi Björk. "earth: a kit" and "cognitive dissonance" are both entertaining spoken pieces, the latter of which features some great one-liners. While some lyrics might get a little too new agey, feel-good for my cynical tastes, like the "Jesus, Allah, Krishna, Buddha" breakdown on the title track, my favorite lyrical moments are the tongue-in-cheek uplift of "mothership" and "evolving whilst revolving." And the phrase "sonic chickpea" never fails to make me smile.
The best tracks on the album are the slow, sexy tabla-infused plea "pour me an honourable man" and the infectious-groove title track "alice in stevie wonderland." micropixie pulls off a great blues piece in "single beige female looks back in dismay" - which expresses such a profound sense of loneliness that I know it will go on my rainy day playlist right after Billie Holiday and certain Magnetic Fields songs.
The likes of micropixie and her eclectic space journey have certainly never been seen here on Earth before, especially in the Asian electronica scene. This album is a refreshing and intelligent change of pace from the usual. micropixie's strengths are her playfulness and the sweet complexity of her music. Let's hope she stays awhile on our fine planet.