Pictureplane - Technomancer

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2015-11-01

Travis Egedy, working under stage name Pictureplane, crafts some odd mishmashes on his new album Technomancer. Parts of the album sound like Psychosonik slowed down by about 40bpm, and there's definitely a resemblance to such 90s dancefloor masters as Utah Saints. But there's also a spooky vibe along the lines of Deadsy or Does It Offend You, Yeah?, with their focus on death and undeath. Yep, it's a witch house album alright, by the man who coined the term himself.

Pictureplane is working in a relatively new genre that's really tough to pin down. The only thing that's clear is that it's electronic, and it's good, while the only significant weakness is Edgey's vocals, which come off as too strained and breathy in a lot of places. At the same time, his vocals are what continually knock you out of your nostalgic expectations based on much of the compositional choices, which are decidedly retro in many places.

A number of songs slip into straight up house, like 'Self Control', with its repetitive synth lines and "ooohhh yeah" vamping, and 'Harsh Realm', with the breakbeats and soul singing of an old Moby tune, sounding like a reworked version of 'Feelin So Real' initially before sliding back into the band's slower comfort zone. Same thing with 'Joy Rider' and its huge, banging synths, classic beats, and wailing diva. And 'Esoterrorist' starts out feeling incredibly 90s with its frantic synth bells and hip hop samples.

Other songs match the tone of the title track, feeling like they're somewhere between darkwave and techno. 'Sick Machine' has a more thoughtful, intentional pace, stomping along as it does with its siren-like synths. 'Chaos Radical' goes even more towards the gothy darkness, with a long, creepy intro before heavy, low synths take over, rumbling along with the beat.

The album's definitive statement of purpose comes in its title track, with pounding beats, layers of dark and light synths, female voices echoing in the background, and lyrics like "manipulate your machine, you're a technomancer" making it clear what it's all about. On the other hand, 'Death Condition' is something of a jumbled mess, with less intense beats, weird basslines, Edgey's uninspired vocals, and occasional diva yells all mashed together into a plodding track that goes nowhere. It's odd how many of the same pieces just don't click in this case. But it's really the only truly lousy song to be found.

And it's easily balanced and overmatched by 'Street Pressure', the highpoint of the album, a remarkable, utterly surprising song, full of upbeat melodies, rollicking beats, and bizarrely, record scratching and vocal samples. Somehow, the whole thing works percfectly, and is worth the price of admission all on its own. It definitely makes it onto my list of best songs of 2015. 'Riot Porn' does a lot of the same things, and almost, but not quite, reaches the same heights. 'Live Forever', the album's closer, also takes the path of the angels, with skittering synths lacking the creep edge found in other tracks, and more coherent female vocals brightening things up.

So what we have here is an assortment of songs that skate around the edges of a lot of well worn genres, but combine bits and pieces of them into something that's both new and recognizable. When I first heard of witch house, I laughed it off as a bunch of posturing nonsense, but I must say, I'm generally pretty impressed with this album, and maybe, just maybe, I've learned my lesson, and won't scoff at something sound unheard in the future... naaah.

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