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Thursday, April 5, 2012
Pictureplane inserts punk's attitude into a hard drive
Special to The Japan Times
Last September, music magazine Spin wrote that America was experiencing an "electronica revolution." Spearheaded by speaker-destroying producers such as Skrillex and Deadmau5, Spin wrote that a "new rave generation" has helped make electronic dance music an inescapable presence on the nation's music scene, to the point this bass-heavy sound has seeped into contemporary pop and hip-hop hits.
As dance music becomes more omnipresent in America, it also stands the chance of becoming further commercialized and streamlined into a style resistant to experimentation. Travis Egedy, who records as Pictureplane, makes dance music outside of the mainstream. He's part of a growing underground scene of musicians swirling 1990's rave, modern-day pop and '70s rock samples into Day-Glo dance tracks. Egedy, who will play shows in Tokyo and Osaka this weekend, has described his approach as a "down-and-dirty punk kind of music, but made entirely with computers and electronics."
These upcoming shows will be his first in Japan. "I am very excited for it," Egedy says. "I know that I want to do some shopping for clothes and anime, but really I just have a very open mind about everything." His itinerary might be undecided, but Egedy admits he has been influenced by Japanese art. " 'Akira,' 'Ghost in the Shell' and 'Tetsuo: The Iron Man' are some of my favorite movies," he says, "and I am a big fan of Takashi Murakami."
Originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, Egedy eventually moved to Denver. The label Lovepump United released the album "Dark Rift" in 2009, Pictureplane's first widely distributed work. It received strong marks from influential music websites like Pitchfork Media, who praised its stylistic mash and Egedy's punk energy. Critics especially celebrated the song "Goth Star," which highlights Egedy's genre melding. It's a twinkling dance track slathered in bass, with a Fleetwood Mac sample creeping between the blown-out sounds.
Last year, Egedy released the second Pictureplane full-length, "Thee Physical." His sophomore effort doesn't stray from the genre bending of "Dark Rift," although it does feature more unabashed pop songs. What Egedy did mix up for "Thee Physical" was blowing up his mission statement. Prior to the album's release, Egedy wrote a manifesto for Impose magazine, full of phrases such as "sex futurism," "techno fetish" and "obsolete gender." The album's song titles pick up on the fact Egedy is commenting on sexuality and gender in the world today — "Post Physical," "Touching Transform" and "Trancegender."
Pictureplane might have a specific political bent, but his live set is more unpredictable.
"I leave a lot open for improvisation because I never know what each performance will be like, and I like it like that," Egedy says. It's an attitude toward music he shares with Teengirl Fantasy, a dance duo who Egedy recently toured with, and with an artist he says he hopes to tour Europe with in the near future, Grimes. His punk-inspired style may not exactly be what Spin had in mind, but it may end up being a crucial element in their "electronica revolution."
Pictureplane plays Seco Bar in Shibuya, Tokyo, on April 6 (11 p.m.; ¥2,500;  6418-8141); and Nuooh in Osaka on April 8 (4 p.m.; ¥2,500;  6125-5474). For more information, visit www.plainpictures.blogspot.com.