Guess what? There’s no longer need for the opposite sex. Honest. What’s more, and maybe even more monumental – sax is back. Though bold, both these statements are true. We’re talking modernist pop music here. Gender bending is common place now, by overtly playing the part or by disguising it – vocal transformation made easy with pitch-shifting software. James Blake does it. So does Karin Dreijur Andersson – to chilling effect. A skill she either shared with or learned from her Tomorrow, In A Year cohort, Planningtorock.
Originally from Bolton, outside Manchester, Janine Rostron more suitably resides in Berlin, a city more in tune with the otherworldy and somewhat disconcerting experimental music of Planningtorock – succinctly described by Nialler9 as “neo-classical electronic baroque pop”. On W’s lead single, ‘The Breaks’, Rostron plays two sides in a creepy and unsettling relationship song, followed immediately by the bubbling and infectious Euro-disco of ‘Living It Out’. There’s classical orchestration throughout, ‘Milky Blau’ has plucked and sweeping string arrangements, though the plucking sounds like someone threw a giant drunken spider into a piano. ‘Black Thumber’ is an eerie soundscape with icy synths and what sounds like mechanical seal cries, perhaps visiting from the aforementioned Darwin electro-opera she helped score. On the opening track ‘Doorway’ Rostron is the epitome of androgyny, an alien marching intro with synth jabs and mood-setting spaghetti-western guitar. ‘The One’ is a confrontational piece and ‘Going Wrong’ has what is quite simply the best use of saxophone heard for some time.
W deliberately shifts style and emotion, sometimes tongue-in-cheek cabaret, sometimes darkly melodramatic. Though it might be a challenging listen, it is always a lavish and rewarding one.