Planningtorock - Powerhouse (CD)
This November, celebrated dance producer Planningtorock – aka Jam Rostron – will release their radical fourth album: Powerhouse.
Powerhouse marks the Berlin-via-Bolton producer’s most intimate album to date, a kinetic, self-produced record flush with attitude, humour, vulnerability and swagger. W, Planningtorock’s critically acclaimed 2011 debut on DFA, revealed a visionary and politicised producer. It offered up deeply queered art-pop – tense, atmospheric dance music cut with classical flourishes, and spell-binding androgyny. But it was 2014’s All Love’s Legal (“a masterclass in left-of-centre dance music”, Mixmag), released on Rostron’s own imprint Human Level, where Planningtorock, with banner-ready slogans (‘Patriarchy Over And Out’, ‘Let’s Talk About Gender Baby’), revealed their ability to combine pop-oriented music with a political message. Powerhouse offers up something infinitely more personal: emotionally-charged, biographical anthems drawn from Rostron’s lived experiences as a non-binary genderqueer artist, experiences around family, identity and music itself.
Powerhouse was written and recorded across Berlin, London, New York and Los Angeles. It comes couched in the precisiontooled synths that have become Rostron’s signature, though critics and fans will hear a subtle, ear worm-y shift in style here: from the Noughties US r&b swagger of ‘Transome’ and the bubbling oldschool ‘90s house of ‘Beulah Loves Dancing’ and ‘Non Binary Femme’, to the funky, flute-laced ‘Much To Touch’ (the only track on Powerhouse to feature a co-producer, longtime friend and collaborator Olof Dreijer of The Knife).
The striking, pitched-down vocals that shook fans of W are as radiant as ever on Powerhouse. It was pitching that gave Rostron’s then-hidden inner self an authentic, external voice; and it was pitching that enabled them to come out, beginning “this long, complex and very much still evolving process of living their non-binary genderqueer self”. For Rostron, pitching became the sonic embodiment of taking T (testosterone). Listen closely, for example, to the lyrics on W’s ‘Doorway’ and you’ll see a throughline connecting that song with the refrain on Powerhouse’s ‘Jam of Finland’: “I feel a transformation in me / All those empty spaces in me / Are filling up with me…”
Ultimately, Powerhouse is a celebration of liberation, a groovefilled record that sees Rostron consolidating power both personal and artistic.