Planningtorock is the alter ego of Janine Rostron, a British-born musician and visual artist who has lived in Berlin for ten years. Her new album, W (on DFA Records), is reminiscent of the avant-but-accessible work of TV on the Radio. The album reveals layers of influence as the chameleonic Planningtorock recreates herself on every song.
Album opener “Doorway” steadily builds, pumping with a kick drum heartbeat and distorted vocals (practically turning Rostron’s voice male). Each pass is an opportunity to add a new sound to the mix, whether horns, synth stabs, or spaghetti western guitar licks, a pattern repeated elsewhere on W. The video for “Doorway” finds Rostron physically altered, just like her voice.
“Going Wrong” is haunted by mischievous strings right out of a Clint Mansell soundtrack, with layers of weeping sirens, animalistic mewing, and foreboding pleadings of “Am I holding on / to someone going wrong?.” The last notes of “Going Wrong” barely fade before the steady rumbling and Baba O’Reilly arpeggios of “Im Yr Man” kick in. “Im Yr Man’s” insistent lyrics are both self-affirming and a statement of devotion: “I don’t need a microphone / to me what I’m real feeling for you / that deep down feeling you know / I left things out so I could pull them back in.”
[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/im_yr_man.mp3″ text=”Planningtorock – Im Yr Man” dl=0]
Rostron’s vocals are manipulated like another instrument on W. On “The One,” her baroque vocals complement orchestral strings, matching the song’s melancholia. “The Breaks” surges with the measured precision of darkwave, full of evocative lyrics like “don’t be surprised / if I’m ripping out my eyes / I’m on fire.” “Jam” has the same feel, with more exotic percussion, drawing out lyrics into almost childlike taunts. Repeating the lyrical themes of “The Breaks” on the synth pop “Living It Out” (“My head’s on fire“), Rostron’s vocals contort to fit the mood, from the almost spoken word chorus to the breathy verses.
[wpaudio url=”/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/living_it_out.mp3″ text=”Planningtorock – Living It Out” dl=0]
Logging 12 songs and just under an hour, W is not without flaws. PTR gets meditative – and indulgent – on the wandering “Black Thumber.” Her cover of Arthur Russell’s “Janine” features a hypnotic bass riff and her most Antony-like vocals, but fails to develop. W finishes strong, however, on “#9,” which like “I’m Yr Man,” has a melody out of a different era, filtered through PTR’s collage of influences. With W, Planningtorock makes an intriguing addition to the DFA roster.