’s brand of theatrical electronic pop made its debut way back in 2006 with Have it All
, an album inspired by the feelings of alienation that came from moving from Bolton, England, to Berlin. Five years later, Planningtorock has signed to DFA Records for her sophomore effort, W
. Fans of The Knife may recall the name Planningtorock thanks to their collaboration on 2010’s perplexing Darwin-inspired Tomorrow, In a Year
. This pairing made for compellingly enigmatic weirdness, as both artists share a penchant for spectacle and the dramatic and spit in the face of convention. After all, Janine Rostron, the civilian identity of Planningtorock, is the sort of artist that releases singles on nine-inch vinyl.
Opener “Doorway” sets up W as a disconcerting experience, with menacing string plucking and throbbing synthesizers foreshadowing certain doom. Like The Knife’s Karin Dreijer Andersson, the vocals of Rostron are distorted and pitch-shifted to the point where they often sound as if they are coming from a man and a demon-possessed one at that. Planningtorock’s Bag of Vocal Tricks ™ is a diverse one, and without prior background information, it would be entirely reasonable to assume that W featured a revolving group of singers rather than just one.
On a compelling reinvention of Arthur Russell’s “Janine”, Rostron comes across as a lovelorn man but sounds decidedly feminine when singing and howling on “I Am Your Man”. W is not all sinister soundscapes and perturbing voices. Rostron dials back the unsettling sounds on the surprisingly lively and danceable “Living It Out” and reveals her playful side on “Manifesto”. It might be tempting for some to initially dismiss Planningtorock as weird for the sake of being weird, but W exposes an artist who is experimenting with musical conventions, with bizarre and often captivating results.