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. His sound was rough at the edges, building large midrangey tracks out of large chunks of other tracks (Dark Rift highlight "Goth Star" was built around Fleetwood Mac's "Seven Wonders"). He also borrowed stabby pop melodies from happy hardcore and trance to brighten up its dark corners.
While that pop sense is here yet again on THEE PHYSICAL, the difference on this album is that it feels written, large empty structures playing host to actual songs. The album opens auspiciously with the joyous pianos of "Body Mod," on first impression the most transparent '90s throwback this side of Azari & III. But the amphetamine pulse is too frantic to be totally accurate, and the vocal actually comes from a very recent drum & bass track from Hospital Records producer Danny Byrd, revealing that Egedy's source material isn't quite as cut-and-dry as he makes it sound.
There's something bigger happening on THEE PHYSICAL than just manufactured nostalgia. Egedy's expert use of flamboyant cliches and boisterous overtures feels like an interrogation, however sincere or not, into the culture of alternative sexualities. Sure, it's hard to take him on seriously on a track like "Black Nails" (particularly when the Darude-esque chords come in), but the manner in which he pokes fun at commoditized individualism in "Body Mods" and "Trancegender" is as thought-provoking as it is cringe-worthy. His own Billy Corgan-esque vocals sing mantra-like choruses in duels with sampled singers—often throaty divas ("Sex Mechanism")—a fascinating interplay between the overpowering but obviously fake sexuality of early house music and the meek but gritty wantonness of tracks like "Negative Slave" and "Breath Work."
If all that sounds like a little much philosophizing, Egedy's airy vocals are catchy enough to be vacuous vendors of sickly sweet melody. THEE PHYSICAL is packed with giddy tangents and unexpected bursts of utopian anthemia, pianos and keyboards so feverishly happy they sound like they could spontaneously catch fire at any moment. If THEE PHYSICAL has any rightful centrepiece it's "Real Is A Feeling," with gorgeous arpeggios bursting out into smoky clouds as Egedy questions the reality of authenticity and the authenticity of reality in a single lyric. That says it all, really. I'm not sure if Egedy's whole schtick here is some elaborate joke, but it's so well done that it works just as effectively either way.
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Tracklist: Pictureplane - Thee Physical 01. Body Mod
02. Black Nails
03. Sex Mechanism
04. Touching Transform
05. Post Physical
06. Techno Fetish
07. Real is a Feeling
09. Negative Slave
10. Breath Work
11. Thee Power Hand