Pictureplane, Autre Ne Veut
Live @ Cameo Gallery, Williamsburg
September 1, 2011
Autre Ne Veut, a local one-man electronic act who’s never put his real name to any recorded work, really hammed it up at Cameo last night. Mostly alone on stage, singing against a prerecorded mix of 80s crystal sounds and chronically soft edges, he dramatically strutted and frowned, projecting uber-ridiculous faces of inner torment to the crowd at all times. When joined by guest singer “She-Wolf”, the performance resembled an unusually committed karaoke session, both of them symbiotically mugging with a sort of Meatloafian grandeur. It was patently ridiculous. I was glad to see the assembled, underdressed cool kids laughing in disbelief. Not taking this stuff too seriously is probably for the best. But this set lead me to a useful epiphany, really. All these avant R&B guys, with their canned music and their emotive performances, are just electroclash plus a decade if you tilt your head just right. Where electroclash performers circa 2002 tried their best to communicate aloof disinterest, these new R&B dudes just shoot for the opposing illusion of painfully earnest soul power. The beats are slower; the abject goofiness continues apace.
Pictureplane fared better, hit harder, delivered his minor spectacle more tastefully. Travis Egedy, a load-bearing scenester in Denver’s robust alternative music scene, started on stage alone as well, but behind a deck that made him seem a little less naked, more in control. The beats he wrangled from his rig had a wide breadth, sometimes roughly industrial, occasionally hip-hop inspired, mostly straight techno thump. He might occasionally blur into vapid rave territory, but at least he wasn’t drowning in soft-focus fluff. In woozy light meant to evoke primitive two-tone 3D, he sang and half-rapped with a b-boy’s easy gait strolling to the front of the stage and back. Dressed casually in ball cap and baggies, his touch of flair came from two shapely stage dancers in dominatrix hoods of the relatively friendly Ghost World variety. Silly, sure, but a welcome focus point apart from the never very dramatic sight of a lone man knob-turning and sample-wrangling. The crowd, brightened by swirling LEDs, stayed in motion for most of his set. They really sort of lost it to the persistent throb of 2009’s “Goth Star,” which is still Egedy’s best hit, maybe. It steals snippets of Stevie Nicks’ regal timbre, but refuses to let her articulate a single complete thought. The use of content-free vocal sounds in electronic music has been bugging me lately, but he gets away with it. We already have enough context for Nicks’s voice, and can properly appreciate the sonic shift from Fleetwood Mac to a hazy k-hole. His own vocals are outclassed by her ghost, but he displays her respectfully. He played every song he could think off beyond that early climax, the crowd urging him to extend the breezy, hedonistic vibe. He went on as long as he could.