- For classically trained violinist Janine Rostron, growing up in a northern English mill-town can't have been easy. As jovial and welcoming as its people are, Bolton is a long way from the bright lights of swinging London, and for a young woman whose musical ambitions stretched further than the bleak sounds of neighbouring Manchester, the opportunity to get away can't have come soon enough. A move to Berlin, where she encountered Jamie Lidell, Peaches and the Chicks On Speed crew, led to a caterpillar-to-butterfly transformation from which Rostron emerged as multimedia art-house diva Planningtorock, and a debut album (2006's Have It All) that caught the attention of the New York hipster gurus DFA.
Planningtorock's sophomore effort W is a perfect (and—these days—increasingly rare) example of a record that immediately provokes an intense reaction. As a singer, Rostron is part of a lineage that stretches from Yoko Ono to Bjork to Karin DreijerAndersson, and her vocals—an often electronically processed mash-up of soulful crooning and almost Black Metal growling—will likely send many listeners scrambling to turn this album off. Clear that hurdle, though, and you're in for a real treat. W is a surprisingly warm, immersive journey through territory so alien it feels like some fantastic, surreal dream.
Recorded in Berlin, W's stark, sensual soundscapes owe little to the sounds coming out of clubs like Berghain, suggesting a different, seedier kind of nightlife altogether. Whilst it is most definitely an "electronic" album, few tracks are tethered to anything resembling a danceable beat; instead they slither and throb and bump, using pizzicato strings, bells, thick synthesized bass grooves and cut-up vocal samples to establish a groove. It's a record indebted to the darker side of the city, the one that inspired David Bowie's classic late '70s trilogy of Brian Eno-produced albums.
Even though DFA fans are used to diversity—whilst most of the label's singles are geared towards the dance-floor, full-lengths from Delia & Gavin, Prinzhorn Dance School and Free Energy have covered everything from cosmic ambience to wiry post-punk and classic guitar rock—W is their most "out there" release since Black Dice's Creature Comforts. But whilst more familiar sounding, beat-led tracks are in relatively short supply, Rostron's daring, tech-savvy 21st century take on European avant-electronica and New York mutant disco makes for one of the most thrillingly original long players in recent memory.
02. The One
03. Going Wrong
05. I Am Your Man
06. The Breaks
07. Living It Out
08. Milky Blau
10. Black Thumber