Pictureplane – Thee Physical

3 out of 5

Label: Lovepump United

Produced by: Travis Egedy, Jupiter Keyes, Mookie Singerman

As of this writing, 2011 was ten years ago. I don’t remember what, exactly, the music scene was like back then – if sexy techno was all the rage; if pushing gender roles was progressive or “edgy.” Peaches – who I feel like brought the crasser version of this stuff to the forefront – was in the 00s, so I would assume things had smoothed out by the 2010s, but I dunno. I dunno how lurid Pictureplane’s ‘Thee Physical’ is supposed to be or feel, or if it’s supposed to be something beyond sensation and its soft-crooned lyrics are actually intended to be contemplative. Can’t say. The reviews of Thee Physical from the time suggest back rooms and neon lights; that this is party material intended to make me hump my neighbor. But I really don’t know.

Thankfully, it doesn’t really matter when it comes to enjoying what Travis Egedy – Pictureplane – is offering up, here, but that I can’t really define an absolute tone may be what holds the album back to a degree.

Pictureplane’s work here can generally be described as a warm, heavy beat over which Egedy sprinkles some danceable synth lines, and then rather sweetly whispers some trancelike mantras. Not every song has lyrics, but Egedy’s voice is treated like another rhythmic layer, regardless; the net result is that all of the 11 tracks hit some high points of very sensual, body-moving grooves.

But some tracks do go quite beyond this, and we start out at those heights with opener Body Mod, which takes the transhuman suggestion of its title to meld Egedy’s organic beats with roboticized glitter. It’s quite exciting the whole way through, and feels like it might meld these concepts of being a party track but also being something with more thought and a message buried somewhere within.

Followup track Black Nails somewhat carries this torch, but introduces a DIY vibe to the beats – something that crops up on closer Thee Power Hand, also – that sort of disrupts the general slickness of the album. It also doesn’t aim for the complexity of Body Mod, and pretty much loops once it hits its high point, something several of the tracks thereafter do as well. These are, essentially, the straight-up club jams.

We get back to tracks with some nuance on Techno Fetish, Real is a Feeling, and Trancegender – again, Egedy’s one or two lines sound less like sweaty banter and more like conversation starters, couched within tracks that favor both excellent beats and a sense of evolution within the song, ebbing and flowing between synth lines and some breaks.

Negative Slave maybe goes too far in that direction, though, sacrificing the album’s hearthump backbone to a spacier, more open sound, although Breath Work rebounds with heft once more.

Throughout, Thee Physical – at a surface level – is fascinating, fun stuff, very suitable for a night out. But it’s more promising (and interesting) when it’s going past that surface level. Unfortunately, without fully committing one way or another, Thee Physical remains more ephemeral fun than the kind of thing you think of returning to, time and again.