p'like [plahyk] \ˈplīk\ verb Contraction of "Pretend Like"
: to play make believe; to create (something that is not real) in your mind
P'like is the brainchild of Mad Madam Em, an electronic music producer / composer hailing from Champaign, Illinois. The sound of P'like is at once hauntingly beautiful and disturbingly dark, an eccentric layering of natural, organic sounds against heavy digital elements. In 2019, Em's former bandmate and longtime collaborator ASH officially joined Plike, and the duo released P'like's newest album, De Anima.
Em began her musical journey in 2003, playing bass for the San Diego based industrial / electro band Bishop Buzzkill. In 2005, she began to experiment with keys, synths, drum programming and vocal sequencing, and quickly fell in love with electronic music production and music composition. In early 2014, P'like was born, and the following November Em released her debut solo album, 47th Helen.
47th Helen tells the story of Helen, a woman whose psyche has fractured due to painful traumas in her past. Confined to a psychiatric hospital, Helen's different personalities tell of her struggles with depression, addiction, fear, and self doubt. The inspiration for the album's concept was born from Em's own struggle with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a condition that is estimated to affect 8% of Americans, or 24.4 million people, in the United States alone.
When Em began production on P'like's second EP, Empathetic Apathy, former Bishop Buzzkill bandmate and fellow electronic music producer ASH joined Em to collaborate on two new brand new P'like tracks, "Tripped Script" and "Lessons in Futility". Empathetic Apathy incorporates a variety of musical styles, a few of which include trap, witch house, and trip hop, as well as elements from genres such as dubstep and drum & bass. Em's signature childlike toy pianos, cinematic strings and ethereal vocal sampling entertwine with ASH's expert synthesis engineering and sequencing to form a strangely hypnotic dance of light and shadow. While Empathetic Apathy is not a conceptual album in the same vein as 47th Helen, it paints a vivid picture of many of the struggles we face living in modern day society, touching on topics such as female inequality and America's deeply embedded fear of nuclear war.
The inspiration for P'like's third EP, Empty Mirrors, came from Em's lifelong fascination with paranormal phenomena. This conceptual EP seeks to explore the world of the unseen and the unexplainable; a world of haunted houses, bricked up rooms, and the ghost stories we grow up hearing as children. Each track atmospherically embraces the things that frighten us, mesmerize us, and fill us with a sense of childlike wonder.
P'like's fourth album, Red Queen, White Queen, is a journey into the darkest shadows of the human psyche. It attempts to explore our deepest inner conflicts, such as societal pressure to conform, while at the same time shining a bright light on the stigma that surrounds those who suffer from mental illness and the damage that it causes, such as suicidal ideation and dissociation. Em's longtime collaborator ASH worked with Em on the album's final track, "Headroom".
P'like's fifth EP, Bending Spoons, is a poignant menagerie of dark lullabies. Em's most personal release to date, Bending Spoons seeks to understand the complex psychological damage of traumatic experiences that lead to a fractured sense of self. Em and ASH worked together to produce the album's final track, "Archangel". Both hauntingly beautiful and intensely disturbing, director David Lynch's description of his film Fire Walk With Me as "cherry pie wrapped in barbed wire" is a perfect summation of this emotionally raw and richly atmospheric EP.
P'like's sixth EP, Dark Room, is an ominous, profoundly cinematic exploration of some of the darkest moments in human history. The inspiration for this deeply conceptual EP was born from Em's love of the popular Netflix series, Stranger Things, which inspired her to begin researching unethical experimentation projects on innocent human beings in real life. Disturbed and horrified by what she found, Em set out to tell the stories of five such experimentation projects through music: the infamous Holmesburg Prison experiments, the appalling Monster Study conducted in 1939, Project MKUltra, also known as the CIA mind control program, the abhorrent Project Bluebird experiments in which psychiatrists deliberately created multiple personalities within the minds of their vulnerable patients, and the Soviet secret services poison experiments of Laboratory 12, alternatively known as Kamera, which means "The Cell" in Russian. Em collaborated with Philadelphia producer Digibilly on the EP's final track, "Laboratory 12". Through the use of sound design, experimentation with low frequency sounds, and ethereal, richly layered vocal harmonies from renowned vocalists Linda Strawberry and Holly Drummond, Dark Room is a frightening musical expedition into horror, fear and madness.
P'like's seventh album, Seven, is a beautifully eccentric and delightfully experimental foray into the depths of musical expression. Rather than approaching each track with a strong concept already firmly in mind, Em threw open her creative floodgates and allowed each song to take shape and form organically. Drawing inspiration from the universal chaos and turbulence that marked 2018 as a difficult year for so many, Seven invites the listener to escape into a charmingly bizarre realm of musical imagination.
P'like's latest release, De Anima, is electrifyingly seductive, an intoxicating collection of siren songs and spatial soundscapes that invite the listener to enter a world of mysticism, beauty, and darkness. Inspired by Em's research and study of the philosophies of Carl Jung, De Anima seeks to gaze into the depths of the human psyche, exploring Jungian archetypes, the collective unconscious, and the shadow self. As Jung famously stated in his work Psychology and Alchemy: "People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." Em collaborated with Friendly Timo, the man behind the industrial rock / EBM project The Fair Attempts, on De Anima's final track, "Syzygy".
While in the early stages of producing 47th Helen, Em realized that a singular female vocalist would be essential to the album in order to effectively portray the voice of the protagonist. After an extensive search, the uniquely prominent vocal stylings of VEELA, courtesy of Black Octopus Sound, were chosen to maintain the album's consistent theme. VEELA's ethereal vocals were also used in the creation of Empathetic Apathy and Empty Mirrors. Red Queen, White Queen features Scottish vocalist Holly Drummond, as well as the breathtaking vocalizations of world-renowned vocalist Francesca Genco. P'like's fifth EP, Bending Spoons, features the hypnotic vocalizations of Zara Taylor and soprano Linda Strawberry; album Seven features the brilliant vocal talents of world-renowned vocalists Adey Bell and Cristina Soto, and P'like's most recent release, De Anima features the neo-soul vocal stylings of singer Jovani Occomy.
The Mad Madam is currently back in the studio, dividing her time between composing music for independent films and working on audio design for Momo Ichigo, an upcoming narrative adventure game from the independent UK-based studio Oak Moon Games. Em and ASH are also planning the production of P'like's ninth studio album, which will be announced in early 2020. Stay tuned for news and updates, or visit the Contact page to sign up for P'like's newsletter!