Pictureplane – Thee Physical

written by: August 23, 2011
Release Date: July 19, 2011


Thee Physical isn’t a concept album, but it is about as close to a musical philosophy or concept that listeners will get in their electronic music the rest of this summer. Lyrically, Thee Physical is a mix between a Philosophy 101 and Human Sexuality 101 courses, while at the same time sounding half tongue-in-cheek and witty enough to be fun and lighthearted with song names like “Trancegender.”

Thee Physical is not your average “electronic music for ecstasy people” album, because Pictureplane would be more likely to play a small venue than a 100,000 person drugged out dance floor and because there’s some sort of message behind the music and songs. It would make more sense to group Pictureplane with Nine Inch Nails than DJ Tiësto. Certain songs on the album tackle absurd and “out there” topics and concepts. For example, ffofo “Post Physical” tells the listener that Travis Egedy has a connection with someone so intense that they are “post physical” and don’t need to touch anymore to be so close. However songs like “Trancegender” don’t make much sense with lyrics like “You could be my boy/And I can be your girl/Trancegender/We can be trance,” that aren’t really backed up by why or how this can happen other than in a cheeky song. “Body Mods” is another example of the cheekiness with lines like “Look at us changing our reality/With our body mods.” However, the way Egedy and his female vocalist present these lines is what makes the listener able to take them without feeling like they’re doing something wrong. The setting of this dark electronic soundscape surrounding all the distorted vocals is the sugar coating the ridiculous lyrics need to not sound so, well, ridiculous.

Instrumentally however, Pictureplane’s newest feat is an amalgamation of 1990s R&B radio hits (Ace of Base, Real McCoy) with the female vocals and cheesy over-reverbed synths, mixed with conventions of the modern glitch genre with the strange chopped-up and screwed music and vocal samples, with a throwback to some 1980s industrial aesthetics such as with the heavily distorted vocals. The opening track “Body Mods” contains the album’s strongest melody hook and it isn’t even played by an instrument. Within 10 seconds of starting the album you’re attacked with a reversed and chopped up sample of a vocalist saying something indecipherable that has been meticulously edited out of the realm of human intonation and into the musical realm. Think of The Books, or the chorus of Missy Elliott’s “Work It,” which most likely got stuck in your head in 2002.

There are also slightly offbeat instrumental parts of Thee Physical that work at times and don’t at others.

In “Body Mods” the main rhythm keyboard riff throughout of the song is built upon (even that vocal sample) is slightly off in a glitch fashion, but it works. The rest of “Body Mods” doesn’t feel like it’s weird or that there is something wrong with it. However, during “Black Nails,” Pictureplane takes a similar approach by having a slightly askew keyboard melody start the song and build the rest of the song on that structure, and it works for the most part, especially again when the heavily chopped-up and sampled vocal clips come in. But around the two-thirds mark of the song Pictureplane attempts a “buildup” that you’d hear at a conventional rave/dub step show these days, but there are a few notes that are not only off beat, but throw the rest of the song off beat. There are some major technical difficulties that happened during the arrangement of “Black Nails” that aren’t “glitchy” but real mess ups.

However, this “human approach” to electronic music is also an underlying theme of Thee Physical, so maybe Pictureplane is fine with the album having some mistakes. It’s a shame that “Black Nails” could have been the album’s best song if it had some more time put into it, but again that is sort of the idea of the album. Maybe this “nothing is truly perfect without a little bit of imperfection” concept is blowing the minds of kids raving on ecstasy right now, but it won’t fool anyone who thinks about what these lyrics on the album are actually saying.

Pictureplane – Thee Physical Tracklist:

  1. “Body Mod”
  2. “Black Nails”
  3. “Sex Mechanism”
  4. “Touching Transform”
  5. “Post Physical”
  6. “Techno Fetish”
  7. “Real is a Feeling”
  8. “Trancegender”
  9. “Negative Slave”
  10. “Breath Work”
  11. “Thee Power Hand”