Sunday 17 July 2011


Though with a distinct risk of being a little Pictureplane-heavy today, I present to you my thoughts on his new album, Thee Physical. The interesting thing about beginning to piece together my opinion on this album is that Travis Egedy - the face, body and brains behind the music - has written a "concept manifesto" to accompany the album.

But then again - not everybody is going to have access to this piece of writing before during or after listening to the album, so I could just as well disregard it. But it's just too intriguing. Inclusions like "New forms of techno fetish in a world with no true physical limits. Anti-physics as new cultural paradigm" and "Stone, crystal and jewel. Bone marrow, blood, and earth. Thee vibration of the physicality of the planetary being" give an insight into the mind of the creator of this equally ethereal esoteric musical creation. Is Thee Physical something more than music, or are the music and person that created it separate - something that passes into the hands and minds of the people when it is publicly released? Bit heavy. Sorry. Let's get on with it.

(Below is a stream of the album for your listening pleasure.)

Overall Thee Physical is a tour de force of distorted synth, powerfully assertive beats, well-placed samples and emanating positive frenetic energy. It's this last thing that you notice the most - the amount of care and attention taken to make sure each track makes the most impact; a good example of the energy of Pictureplane's work is in the gloriously, understatedly infectious and beautiful single 'Post Physical' (check out the video here) and penultimate 'Breath Work'. With its totally trancey synth and anonymous syllabically drawn-out sampled vocal, all with a hefty dose of repetition, the track sounds a little like a Faithless number. This one's a box clearly marked 'dancefloor tunes' - everything from the pumping anticipatory drumroll that lifts the last quarter of the song to the dark trance atmosphere gives it this label. Though all songs include an element of dance (mainly the heart-pleasing eardrum-vibrating drumtracks - for example the brutal beat of noisy closer, 'Thee Power Hand'), another that swells with get-up-and-move energy is 'Real is a Feeling'.

Heavily modulated synth starts the song off, becoming its thick bassy backbone. The hip-hop beat invites you to sway as a suspended high-pitched synth reminiscent of Crystal Castles waves in the noise. The punchy drumtrack seems to have given Travis more swagger in his electro virtuosity - arguably at its best here with sawwaves. A lovesong for thinkers, the sentiment is echoed in the entire album, catering to connective theories on existence and conceptual ideas about the nature of reality. Similar conceptual thought is at work on neighbouring 'Trancegender' - two instances of Zola Jesus lending her unmatched vocal talent (and singing to the melody of 'Just Be Good To Me') make this a standout track. This is even before considering the gravelly bass, the subtle emulation of The Cure's 'Close To Me' melody in a hollow synth, and the fidgety futuristic fanfare that comes in at 2:13 and rocks your world for about 30 seconds. Lyrically, the repeated "If you could be my boy, and I could be your girl: genderless, and we could be trans" suggests that Travis is very hot on the idea of oneness, not only on like a spiritual level, but also sexual.

Travis mentions it himself in his manifesto: "Thee obsolete gender. Sex. A fact. A feeling. Thee new sex/sexuality." This sexuality is not only suggested, but explicitly implied by some of his song titles, like the short and sweet 'Negative Slave' dripping with muffled electronica, fast-fingered synth and a genius use of a yelping cut-up sample in the chorus; 'Sex Mechanism' with the anonymous female lyric "satisfy me, don't deny me, baby come on show me" and glitchy chiptune stylings definitely mix a fleshy sound with something utterly mechanic; and the instantly dark repetition of 'Techno Fetish'. But it's not all sex and darkness.

Pictureplane seems to act as a pivot between the endless sea of pop and the desolate mountains of no wave noise outsiderism (a picture plane is actually the imaginary space between a viewer and a piece of art). This is most evident in his use of ear-friendly samples - emphatically placed at the very start of this new album is a sample of Fatboy Slim's 'Renegade Master', "Back once again with the renegade master", helping 'Body Mod' add to its own projective drum and bass dynamism before diving headlong into the clunky arcade game trance of club disco 'Black Nails'; again in 'Touching Transform' there is comfort in the classic 90s piano of dance song 'I Love You Baby' (by The Original). This familiarity might help people to get on board with the ideas of Travis - he writes "Understanding/remembering" in his manifesto, leaving me guessing that his quite upbeat and positive attitude that he wants to share with the whole world, the universality of "The human body/humanity understanding new forms of communication."

And so it is that you're brought crashing back to reality after a trip in the Pictureplane through spaces of energy, atmospheres of electronic distortion, rhythms dipped in molten happiness, ever sharing its warmth. It's great stuff, honestly, and so accessible that it's a little difficult to understand why the whole world over isn't listening to this album.

Thee Physical is released 19th July.

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