The album’s shortcomings certainly highlight the dilemma of our continued reliance on technological crutches.
“My work is always conceptual, and I think this album was really dealing with anxieties that come from the technological age we’re living in,” Travis Egedy (aka Pictureplane) recounted during the run-up to his seventh full-length studio album, Technomancer. “I’m not anti-technology, but I think it’s good to be wary of blind technological progress.”
Well-versed from adolescence in left-field hip-hop and coming up through Denver’s DIY scene in the early ’00s, Egedy has maintained an outsider’s perspective on electronica and club culture. In the 11 years since releasing his self-titled debut, Egedy’s digital paranoia has only increased. While Technomancer’s 2011 predecessor Thee Physical was an examination of the importance of true physical contact on this social media era, this new offering explores a more mythical technologic wizardry. Cast through the post-industrial Pictureplane lens, this power has the potential to disrupt the ongoing man versus machine dichotomy and eventually promote technology to the forefront of that power dynamic (e.g. a post Skynet existence).
In possible retaliation to this evolution, Egedy’s production techniques remain planted in the late ’90s rave scene. Continuing to utilize the rudimentary capabilities of Magix Music Maker 7 Deluxe, Technomancer’s 11 tracks are an amalgam of androgynous lyricism, shoegaze electronics, second-wave acid techno and downtempo darkwave. Not only does opening track “Sick Machine” establish the album’s theme, it reinforces these restrictive dynamic parameters.
For all the incendiary titles, the bulk of the instrumentals hit like a weakened, malnourished rival. Built atop a familiar ‘90s bigbeat pulse, “Esoterrorist” sets itself up as an adversary to this technological dictatorship; however, it jabs with the power of a Facebook-only protester. The dark ambient angst of “Death Condition” falls equally flat following its pulse-quickening opening.
It’s “Self Control” and album closer “Live Forever” which showcase Egedy’s brightest gift: the ability to craft blissful pop-influenced melodies against stoic backdrops. By shifting the battle from technological foe to interpersonal drama (and bringing in guest vocalist Grace Hall for both), some life is developed within the stale digital cataclysm – a production tactic utilized far more regularly during Thee Physical. By reducing these tangible human elements, even the jump-up drum-and-bass vibes of “Harsh Realm” arrive with an unwanted sterility.
The album’s shortcomings certainly highlight the dilemma of our continued reliance on technological crutches. By remaining perpetually plugged-in, our ingrained human creativity is being challenged. Additionally, the broader concept of the album amplifies the notion of philosophic idleness. As much as one thinks or writes about significant cultural shifts, no change is possible without actual action. One cannot affect change simply by living in one’s head, as the final track echoes.
Whenever there is massive technological evolution, humans must be given time to adjust and properly self-correct. Technomancer remains stuck mid-transition. Egedy’s internal struggle with this has only limited his abilities to unite with fellow artists and develop new sounds and revolutionary narratives. Egedy must allow the anxieties to recede and re-install the human emotions that guided his earlier releases. Otherwise, he has already forfeited that battle to his omnipotent technologic adversary.