Release Date: Jul 19, 2011
Record label: Lovepump United
Genre(s): Electronic, Pop/Rock, Club/Dance
A black gloved hand, reaching out to stroke a larger, bare one, set against a fuzzy, purple-and-blue backdrop. That’s the cover of Pictureplane’s Thee Physical, and that’s really all you need to know what you’re about to get into. There will be plays with gender, power, and sexuality. It will be lo-fi.
Denver's Travis Egedy released Dark Rift in 2009, a collection of distorted, darkwave-flavoured goth beats geared towards... well, I'm not sure who, really. Egedy combined supremely uncool influences with over-the-top imagery, ahead of his time in the appropriation of formerly mainstream touchstones into something that felt winkingly counter-cultural.
“Desire is fetishism! What does it mean to be aroused? Touch your every desire! The gloved hand as its own universe.” Zoiks! The pre-coital pillow talk from Travis Egedy proclaiming Pictureplane’s sophomore release would’ve made even the Pint-Served Prancing Purple Pervert of Pop Prince blush and declare “Ewww, that’s just filthy”. We live in a time where everything is sexualized anyway, from candy to dog food. What is actually sexy anymore? Well, I feared the worst, and half-expected Thee Physical to be delivered in a brown paper bag.
The continued rollout, mutation, and absorption of dance music in all its permutations throughout America gets a 2011 poster child in Pictureplane's Thee Physical, which at least shows that Travis Egedy deserves credit for more than simply coming up with the idea of a style of music called "witch house," however humorously. Neither cutting edge in electronic terms nor aiming for the heart of the charts, the album's interest lies in its easily dreamy fusions, exchanging the cold imagery of the album art and song titles for something more sweetly exultant -- though "Techno Fetish" definitely sums it all up perfectly, no matter the overall intent. A general approach holds sway -- Egedy's sighing, soft vocal parts, sometimes looped, often expressing general sentiments rather than continuing lyrics, over short, staccato arrangements, a telescoping of impact different from dance's tendency to flow and build.
The hands-across-the-void cover art that accompanies the proper sophomore effort from blasted-electro producer and Denver scene magnate Travis Egedy's Pictureplane project, Thee Physical, brings to mind a few things: fictional Spinal Tap album Smell the Glove, the "kid who found the severed hand" statue in "Arrested Development", and Magic Eye artwork with all the eye-straining already in place. In reality, the image ties into the album's loose themes of human touch and technological eroticism. This dorm-room theorizing also shows up in selected song titles: "Trancegender", "Post Physical", "Body Mod".
Co-produced by HEALTH dude (and labelmate) Jupiter Keyes and himself, Travis Egedy’s latest as Pictureplane is an uninterrupted barrage of new-rave culture: samples, synths and psychosomatic sexuality. Egedy once surfed the lines of convention inventively, fitting more comfortable sounds into dreamy, beat-laden melodies for an aura not unlike acts like Small Black...but not here. Perhaps Thee Physical’s ecstasy “thrills” are things better adapted to a live environment, but nothing sticks on the LP, and the disc feels recycled, pedestrian and a bit exhausting—at best.
Late last month, Slate issued a pride-week series of articles on the historical and contemporary relevance of the gay bar. The gay bar was described by June Thomas — the author of the series — as “a refuge [and] Hebrew school,” a place to escape the aggressive straightness of the world, but also a place to transmit cultural traditions, to pass along heritage. Thomas’ assessment of the importance of the gay bar is lucid and level-headed enough for even the most clueless and sheltered heterosexual: The past tense Thomas uses in this section is a pivotal part of her thesis, of the series as a whole.
Thee Physical is Denver-based dark-electro producer Travis Egedy’s sophomore LP as Pictureplane, and from the album art onward, it’s an effort that seems fascinated with showing the sensual in electronics. With track titles like “Body Mod”, “Post Physical”, “Sex Mechanism”, and “Techno Fetish”, Egedy isn’t pulling any punches, and his music follows suit, mashing together pieces of house, R&B, dark rock, and techno into whatever danceable shape happens to result. With HEALTH buddy Jupiter Keyes on board as co-producer, Egedy manages to string together some of that misfitting, loose-end conceptualizing, cobbling together some more cohesive tracks.
Just a few weeks ago New York became the biggest state to legalize gay marriage, and if there were a perfect time for Thee Physical to debut, it’s now. Pictureplane’s Travis Egedy has always been one for fist-pumping, electronic opuses, but Thee Physical, with its exploration of gender and sexuality, marks a departure from the big, electronic sound and a move to, well, damn good pop songs. These days “pop music” can be construed as a dirty word, with top 40 charts shunned by the more sophisticated sphere of musical aficionados.