Release Date: May 24, 2011
Record label: DFA
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Club/Dance, Indie Electronic
Given the evidence, you'd forgive anyone for taking a pass on W. Those who have heard of Planningtorock (AKA British-born, Berlin-based artist Janine Rostron) will have most likely done so from her collaboration with The Knife on last year's difficult (but sorely under-appreciated) Darwinian opera Tomorrow, in a Year, or her thoroughly demented support slots for LCD Soundsystem. And for those that hadn't there are the ridiculous descriptions of Planningtorock as 'a dark sexy creature that sways with the relentlessly swinging propeller sound' (from the album's press-release, which also throws in a comparison to Yoko Ono for good measure) or 'Bolton's answer to Grace Jones' (from an interview in The Guardian, and presumably based more on Rostron's androgynous image than her music) to get past.
On Planningtorock's first album, Have It All, Janine Rostron was a sassy firebrand, setting her self-discovery to a bold mix of glam rock, funk, cabaret, and dance music that played like a futuristic revue. Things are darker and more complicated on W, as she tries to reconcile falling in love with maintaining her own identity, and explores how to share herself without giving her sense of self away. The classical underpinnings of Rostron's music come to the fore, and her All Stringed Up EP and her work with the Knife on their Darwinian opera Tomorrow, in a Year feel like major influences on W’s orchestral drama.
If you’re mates with Karin Dreijer Andersson, have co-written an opera with [a]The Knife[/a] and make music that sounds like [a]Fever Ray[/a] viewed in a funhouse reflection, you’d better be pretty fucking good to dodge the hail of copycat accusations surely heading your way. Luckily [a]Planningtorock[/a], alias Janine Rostron, has delivered [b]‘W’[/b], a masterpiece of art-pop experimentalism that gleefully expands on her debut. Looking like something ripped from the pages of Jean Cocteau’s sketchbook and sounding like an existentially challenged cat, tracks like [b]‘Living It Out’[/b] and [b]‘The One’[/b] make Rostron our fave Bolton-born, Berlin-resident frau with a freaky prosthetic nose.
One-woman twisted synth-pop sorceress Planningtorock is probably best known for last year’s suitably mind-bending collaboration with the Knife—the Darwin electropera Tomorrow, A Year—and from the first notes of her second album W it’s apparent that the pairing on that record was anything but coincidental. “Doorway”, the churning entrance to this effort, sports a stirring synth pulse remarkably similar to that on Fever Ray’s mission statement “If I Had a Heart”, and like Karin Dreijer-Andersson, Janine Rostron plays a cat-and-mouse game with identity and gender, mechanically twisting her voice into a variously guttural, whining, sinister or absurdly embellished instrument. The ‘W’ of the title isn’t that ‘W’, rather it serves as confirmation of Rostron’s fascination with multi-faceted musical identity.
It's easy to understand why Janine Rostron, the multimedia artist known as Planningtorock, has become a frequent collaborator of the Knife. In aesthetic terms, they're on a very similar wavelength. They both gravitate toward tense rhythms and a particular timbre in their keyboard parts that is at once totally menacing and vaguely cheesy. They both integrate elements of theater and performance art into their live shows.
And just like that, LCD Soundsystem are gone, leaving behind a trio of albums that tickled the perimeter of pop perfection, almost a decade of occasionally shambolic but often euphoric gigs and the knowledge that a man can remain at the acme of cutting edge cool for near on ten years wearing nowt but a beer belly, a discoloured white T-shirt and a five-day growth. Sad as it is, it's surely better for them to have burnt out than fade away like those game changers of a different ilk but a similar era, The Strokes, currently appear to be doing. But what next for the avuncular enigma that is James Murphy? Well at least he still has DFA Records to occupy him and to stop that belly from becoming Biggie Smalls-like while he decides on his next move.
Gloomy theatrical electronica from Berlin-based Brit. Wyndham Wallace 2011 Those arriving at Doorway – the opening track of W, Planningtorock’s second album – with no prior knowledge of its architect might be rather shocked to discover that the growled, baroque malevolence on display actually comes courtesy of a woman who spent her youth growing up in Bolton. Janine Rostron seems to revel in such confusion, playing with roles of identity in a provocative fashion, defying notions of conventional sexuality to such a degree that one song is entitled I Am Your Man.