Pitchfork’s Soundplay Game Jam: Chromatics, DJ set by Oneohtrix Point Never
Wednesday, September 5
Better than: The day before Fashion Week.
When I arrived at the New Museum for Pitchfork’s Soundplay Game Jam, the first person I recognized was Daniel Lopatin. Not as random as the first person I held a conversation with, who was named Viking Swan and seemed to have wandered in from CBGB Festival a few months ago. With those duly noted and my mind wiped clean of expectations (what to expect, after all, from a “game jam”), I moved through a pleasantly packed crowd of B-list would-be models who might have appeared in a GQ spread to accomplish the real goal at my first Chromatics show: play video games.
Video games are a thing again—at least, if you don’t count the many people for whom it has always been a thing—and Pitchfork has fallen headfirst into the market alongside The National, Beck, HEALTH, and other artists featured on its pages with Soundplay, a showcase of games inspired by songs.
I was hoping the stylish crowd of people being interviewed in the corner, led by a long-haired gentleman with a leather bike seat strapped to his white Duluth Pack, included members of the gaming magazine (and Pitchfork partner) Kill Screen. “It’s not anyone famous,” someone informed me. When I asked him and his friend what they thought about the games, they each replied in unison, “It’s pretty cool” and “It’s not that great.” I could see what they meant. After knocking over an explanatory cutout with my free beer and blushing, I settled onto an artfully lacquered stump to play Take A Walk, inspired by Passion Pit’s song of the same name. In the part of the game I played, a cartoon bunny gets broken up with via text message; you make it feel better by dragging shelved candy icons to the center of his bleeding heart. There, they fall somewhat Tetris-like at the bunny’s feet, where they kind of form a rainbow as the animal tells you, “I am 40.2% better!” The cutesy concept went well with the song’s “squeee!” synthesizers, although it didn’t exactly refute the idea that Michael Angelakos sounds like a cartoon character.
About an hour after the event started, the security guard gave the A-OK and people started filing downstairs into the theater, where Chromatics would perform. It was another half hour before they came onstage, but when they did, oh man. Every synth line tingled at the base of my skull while my body reacted by doing a herky-jerk like no one else was doing the same thing. It probably helped that they opened with “Tick of the Clock” and “Lady,” two of their best-known songs; they’ve also appeared in Drive and Ivan Safrin’s Soundplay game Geometry of Love (which, for the record, is way more fun than Passion Pit’s). The potent chemistry between Nat Walker’s cloth-shrouded snares and Johnny Jewel’s heavy keyboard manipulation thrummed through their songs like Ruth Radelet’s lovesickness.
“This is my lucky day,” Radelet said at one point. “I almost didn’t have this guitar or these keyboards.” Whether she borrowed a guitar or got her own back—I suspect the latter, since it conspicuously matched everything else—the instrument’s metallic inlays cast reflective lights on the wall. All the black and silver and heels clicking over the hardwood got me thinking they had flown in from Italy, but no: It seems that Portland cultivates brooding, ghostly Italo-disco like Forks breeds devastatingly attractive vampires. (See also Blouse.)
Chromatics closed their set with the bleak “Night Drive,” after which the security guard ushered everyone in the theater into an unnecessarily massive green elevator; this opened into a club-like space where Lopatin, Celtics hat intact, had re-emerged as Oneohtrix Point Never behind a computer and in front of old-school graphics. I was on the balcony, reveling in the afterglow from Chromatics’ set while taking in a high-definition view of a wide-awake city ready for a night drive.
Critical bias: I forgot to bring my earplugs, and Oneohtrix Point Never’s lower registers are magnificently punishing to the point of pain, hence me spending his DJ set outside.
Overheard: “I can’t tell if it’s getting darker or not.”—Some guy as they killed the house lights.
Overheard II: “Time to get funky up in this shit.”—Another guy a they killed the house lights.
Random notebook dump: Spin threw a party across the river at Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel, also with an open bar and a stunning view of the city. They may have had Azealia Banks, but they didn’t have video games.
Tick of the Clock
Kill For Love
In the City
Back From the Grave
These Streets Will Never Look the Same
I Want Your Love
Running Up That Hill
Into the Black