Monday, 11 February 2019

Jonah Sharp / Bill Laswell ‎– Visitation (1994)

Style: Dub, Techno, Ambient
Format: CD
Label:  Subharmonic

1.   Zurvan Akarana
2.   Aion

Bill Laswell - Bass, Composer, Producer, Synthesizer
Jonah Sharp - Composer, Producer, Synthesizer

The manipulation of spirit through music is both a subject of historical fact and ongoing development. Traditional instruments have served spiritual purposes very well over the millennia, especially where rhythm is concerned. Where drums, rattles, and sistrae have served in the past, electronic instruments serve in the present and look to provide service in the future -- especially those that can easily produce a shift in sonic identity (samplers are good for this, but synthesizers, ever more complex, can take a bare mathematical notion and produce something formerly unknown from it.) Jonah Sharp and Bill Laswell, working in tandem, have produced a pair of ambient slabs built on a mixture of rhythmic anchor and rhythmic shift, in which bass underlies skittish, swirling synthesizer layers with a pulsing thread that almost helps to focus the electronics, before fading slowly away. What comes between the anchors is a sound of space and spirit -- while the synthesizers crisscross and swirl in their own pulsing rhythms, the sound is only truly rooted when the bass breathes in -- this, at least, is "Zurvan Akra." "Aion" is more subtle in its rhythmic interplay, though it is there, woven into the deep space fabric of things. Sharp and Laswell spend their time riding the cycles in the heart of the piece, producing something that, on the whole, might be seen as quite a piece for planetariums -- or Halloween spook shows. Even with the cycles and rhythms, it's very easy to let go and just drift, floating from one end to the other even through the deep bass passages. True space music.
Steven McDonald / AllMusic

PlanningToRock ‎– Have It All (2006)

Style: Electro, Experimental
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Chicks On Speed Records

01.   The PTR Show
02.   Bolton Wanderer
03.   Changes
04.   Local Foreigner
05.   Hiding Where I'll Find Me
06.   Take It Away
07.   Don't Want What You Don't Want
08.   Never Going Back
09.   I Wanna Bite Ya
10.   Think That Thought
11.   Have It All
12.   When Are You Gonna Start

Mastered By – Lupo
Mixed By – Cornelius Rapp, PTR
Music By, Lyrics By, Performer, Producer – PlanningToRock

Some musicians are famous for departing their homeland (Scott Walker, for instance), while others don't find themselves until they leave. Janine Rostron, aka Planningtorock, is among the latter. Rostron left England for Berlin and ran into Peaches, Kevin Blechdom, Jamie Lidell, and Chicks On Speed along the way. While Planning... doesn't sound much like her fellow expats, she does share their flair for the theatrical-- she performs live in Elizabethan costumes and masks-- which is fitting considering her video work predated her music. 
Part travelogue, part self-help manual, Rostron's debut album details the transformational powers of getting the fuck out of town (in her case Bolton, England), and using the self-imposed alienation to examine personal truths and discover survival skills. "Bolton Wander" is a straightforward narrative of her move and the reasoning behind it. "Local Foreigner" moves on its belly, with eerie percussive vocal stabs and tambourines slithering in and out and Berlin's empty buildings echoing in the song's hollow corners. 
If half of Have It All is about leaving home, the other is about never going back. The sprightly "Changes" explains her metamorphosis. Here her lower vocals are backed by a higher, ghostlier version of the same, as if her different stages are duking it out for supremacy. Eventually the more confident Berliner wins out. On album centerpiece "I Wanna Bite Ya" Rostron flips "I hate your guts" on its head : "What happens if/ I start on your little finger/ What happens if/ I'm halfway up your elbow." This is Rostron's central strength: Her ability to collapse the distinction between threat and enticement, and make you forget that there ever was a distinction in the first place. It's violence rendered playful with a flirty xylophone trill, and sex stripped of any innocence by a guttural growl.

Despite her location and label, Rostron doesn't make dance music. Planningtorock also separates herself from her label mates by keeping her vocals pure, expressive, and soulful; she eschews electro's lifeless monotones and IDM's synth manipulations. The title track has the album's only true beat and bass lines. Most of tracks on Have It All stay away from bass-heavy dance beats, but her songs are more flexible without that backbone. Rostron's Janis Joplin-like runs are able to cover the distance between melody and primal scream, leaving her free to exploit her entire expressive range. 
Have It All* is only one part of a three-part system (along with her costuming/performance and her videos). After all, the album's first track, "The PTR Show" welcomes you to her show, not her album. But Have It All is unique on its own, and sounds like nothing else that's come out this year. The Knife's Silent Shout could be a reference point (and Rostron has remixed a song for them) but their otherworldliness and theatrics alienate the listener. Rostron invites us to become a part of her alienation, and injects the experience with a sense of humor. It repulses as it beckons; the more you ignore her, the closer she gets.
Jessica Suarez / Pitchfork

PlanningToRock ‎– W (2011)

Style: Electro, Synth-pop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: DFA

1.01.   Doorway
1.02.   The One
1.03.   Manifesto
1.04.   Going Wrong
1.05.   I'm Yr Man
1.06.   The Breaks
1.07.   Living It Out
1.08.   Milky Blau
1.09.   Jam
1.10.   Black Thumber
1.11.   Janine
1.12.   #9
2.01.   Doorway (Jamroll Version)
2.02.   Privates
2.03.   My Valuable Hunting Knife
2.04.   Summer Save Me

Percussion – Hjorleifur Jonsson
Mixed By – Christoffer Berg, PlanningToRock
Performer, Producer – PlanningToRock
Written-By, Lyrics By – PlanningToRock

Those arriving at Doorway – the opening track of W, Planningtorock’s second album – with no prior knowledge of its architect might be rather shocked to discover that the growled, baroque malevolence on display actually comes courtesy of a woman who spent her youth growing up in Bolton. Janine Rostron seems to revel in such confusion, playing with roles of identity in a provocative fashion, defying notions of conventional sexuality to such a degree that one song is entitled I Am Your Man. Even the video for Doorway features her with a mask that succeeds in making her look like Mr Spock’s glamorous sister. 
But though it’s frequently disconcerting, W is also thoroughly engrossing, creating an alternative musical universe in much the same way as The Knife, the Swedish act with whom she collaborated on 2010’s opera Tomorrow, In a Year. Evidently at home in the studio, Rostron imagines a darkly melodramatic world of shadows and sleek metallic edges, her electronic setting industrial and semi-gothic in a similar fashion to current critical faves EMA and Zola Jesus. Unlike them, however, Rostron refuses to ham it up, using technology to stretch her voice into unrecognisable shapes that hold an audience at a distance and render her almost robotic, as much a part of the artificial environment as the machines she employs. 
So when her slowed-down vocal on The Breaks delivers lines like "Don’t be surprised, I’m ripping out my eyes… We break too easily", it’s the replicants of Blade Runner that come to mind. This is underlined by arrangements that recall the lush orchestration of Vangelis’ soundtrack to Ridley Scott’s legendary film, with pizzicato strings and saxophone nestled amidst the brooding soundscapes of Going Wrong and Milky Blau, and Black Thumber conjuring up images of epic stargazing. 
There’s plenty of other unsettling trickery going on: Jam is a woozy experiment in key-shifting synths, metallic percussion and nightmarish vocals, Janine a minimalist cover of an old Arthur Russell tune rendered with little more than a rumbling bass synth and another decelerated vocal take. But Living It Out is a playful pop tune in debt to Giorgio Moroder, while Manifesto could be a 21st century take on Bow Wow Wow. James Murphy’s (of LCD Soundsystem) decision to sign this shape-shifting creature to DFA Records makes perfect sense given her blend of art, electronics and mischievous humour, and while it’s an undeniably alien world Rostron inhabits, it’s an altogether convincing one.
Wyndham Wallace / BBC Review

PlanningToRock ‎– All Love's Legal (2014)

Style: Abstract, House, Ambient
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Human Level

01.   Welcome
02.   All Love's Legal
03.   Human Drama
04.   Answer Land
05.   Let's Talk About Gender Baby
06.   Words Are Glass
07.   Misogyny Drop Dead
08.   Steps
09.   Beyond Binary Binds
10.   Public Love
11.   Purple Love
12.   Patriarchy Over & Outico

Planningtorock's message of gender equality and sexual freedom on All Love's Legal seems simplistic and dated at first. But in 2014, the simplest messages are often the most urgent ones. Western media coverage of the Sochi Oympics has brought attention to Russian anti-gay violence and legislation. But we're also sharing a planet with at least five countries where even vaguely defined homosexual behavior is worthy of the death penalty. Jam Rostron, the multimedia artist behind Planningtorock, sings "You can't illegalize love" on the title track on All Love's Legal. That slogan could fit on a t-shirt, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Nuance isn't translating so well today. 
Rostron's musical work, a kind of art-house house, has always been a smart platform for direct intentions. Her debut album Have It All laid down the small set of tools—violin, keyboards, drum machine, heavily processed vocals—that she would also use on her followup W. Setting aside Rostron's collaboration with the Knife, Tomorrow, in a Year, she's only gotten better at the balance. On All Love's Legal she refines further, adding or subtracting beats and strings until finding the right tension between her unambiguous gender politics and her unknowable voice. 
Despite the sparse instrumentation and arrangement, Rostron's songs evoke huge, cavernous spaces. By manipulating the attack and echo on her strings and synths, she creates the clouds of theatrical fog that cling to the melody on "Human Drama". You can hear the empty stage surrounding her. The bass and drums songs, like "Misogyny Drop Dead" and "All Love's Legal", drift out of sync, tugging at each other and galloping separately. Even the most straightforward dance track, the irresistibly in-sync "Let’s Talk About Gender Baby", feels off, but in a good way. Rostron repeats the titular phrase over her usual brooding bass line, but she extends the syllables a little too long, slurring her words on either the world's most self-aware dancefloor or your college's drunkest women's studies discussion section.
Jessica Suarez / Pitchfork

Paul Simon ‎– Graceland - 25th Anniversary Edition (1986)

Genre: Rock, Folk, World, Country
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label:  Legacy, Sony Music

01.   The Boy In The Bubble
02.   Graceland
03.   I Know What I Know
04.   Gumboots
05.   Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
06.   You Can Call Me Al
07.   Under African Skies
08.   Homeless
09.   Crazy Love, Vol. II
10.   That Was Your Mother
11.   All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints
Bonus Tracks
12.   Homeless (Demo)
13.   Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (Alternate Version)
14.   All Around The World Or The Myth Of Fingerprints (Early Version)
15.   You Can Call Me Al (Demo)
16.   Crazy Love (Demo)
17.   The Story Of "Graceland" - As Told By Paul Simon (Previously Unreleased)

Producer – Paul Simon
Remastered By – Greg Calbi
Written-By – Paul Simon

Today it’s hard to remember the controversy surrounding this classic album on its original release in 1986.  Equally, it’s hard to credit just how low Paul Simon stood in the musical hierarchy back then. His work up to the mid-80s had not caught the public imagination; his glory days distant memories. Then came that trip to South Africa… 
The impact of Graceland on its release has been rarely equalled in rock’n’roll – arguably only Elvis’ 68 Comeback Special packed the same punch. Has there ever been a better opening brace than The Boy in the Bubble and Graceland? Is there not something wholly irresistible about You Can Call Me Al? Has Simon ever matched the poignancy of Homeless? Or the sheer exuberance of Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes? 
Graceland gave Simon a third bite of the cherry, following the Simon & Garfunkel years and a glittering 70s solo career. It may well stand as the pinnacle of his remarkable half-century career. Simon recently admitted that he felt that the album’s title-track was the best song he’d ever written. 
With the furore surrounding the recording of Graceland, the sheer quality of this groundbreaking record is too often overlooked. And just to qualify: Simon may have been naive and arrogant, but he did not break the cultural boycott when he went to record in apartheid South Africa. 
What he did was embrace the music of that troubled nation and put it on a world stage. Marrying the ebullience of township jive to his own innate pop sensibilities, Simon fashioned a record which was truly, blindingly original, and – listening to it a quarter of a century on – modern and timeless.
In truth, the audio disc of this anniversary edition disappoints, primarily because Paul Simon is a notoriously painstaking writer; what inspires him ends up on the finished album. So extras here extend to five demos of Graceland titles – three of which were available on the album’s 2004 reissue (You Can Call Me Al and Crazy Love are new, but instrumental) as is Simon narrating The Story of Graceland. Also included is the engrossing documentary Under African Skies, which follows him back to a liberated South Africa. 
Forget the boycotts and controversy, and marvel once again at the magic that Simon conjured up on Graceland.
Patrick Humphries / BBC Review