The first words you hear on Bolton born, Berlin residing Jam Rostron’s third album as Planningtorock are “Fall in love with whoever you want to” over a shimmering synth riff, the tone of which rises only once. It’s a simple and clear message and a topic revisited throughout All Love’s Legal.
Sitting alongside the angry vagina-pop of Peaches or the agit-electro of The Knife, Rostron’s music is derived from the same 4/4 beat of dance music but with an avant-garde re-think. Her approach is less confrontational than theirs, much more oblique, especially with her preference of masking her voice. Using vocal processing to tune her vocal down, it’s twisted into a deep rumble ala Antony Hegarty or Diamanda Galas, it’s highly unique and takes time to get round its bizarre, deathly quality.
The queer/race/gender politics which are alluded to by the one sentence statement of the intro are mentioned again but not elaborated much beyond that later on. The title track has her proclaiming: “All ‘ove’s legal, you cannot illegalise love, love is the one gift that gives life its purpose”. Crooned over sweet synth stabs and glitch-hop beats, it’s intoxicating but seeing as she’s hardly likely to appeal to rabid Daily Mail readers, the sentiment, albeit very lovely, is kind of lost here, almost preaching to the already converted.
A similar occurrence appears later on with a take on The Knife’s “Full of Fire”: “Let’s Talk About Gender Baby” is a huge piece of sloganeering, but without any further statement, just that sentence sung in variants of pitch, the message isn’t there, or maybe that is the message. Have a statement so big that it speaks for itself, if this is the case, the intention is recognised, the track itself is a cheeky, purposefully disposable piece of early DFA influenced pop, like ESG with agendas, it’s the most immediate and satisfying thing here.
Elsewhere, other highlights include the instrumental piece “Beyond Binary Binds”, a dreamy late 80s influenced Detroit tech house, infuriatingly short at 90 seconds but worthy of a release on Munich techno label Kompakt. The solemn “Steps” has mid-tempo glitched beats, tear stained keyboards and forlorn lyrics such as “Sometimes my heart is on the ground and it’s me walking all over it”, the track gradually builds into a crescendo of string instruments, it’s a real ‘moment’ of the album whilst “Public Love” is the nearest thing to a conventional dance track, the urgency of which is like being violently shook whilst having the title shouted at you, and “Human Drama” is a prime piece of heartbreak disco, onwhich lush synths and cello tweaks accompany the album’s most overt lyrics, “I’m trying to find the words toexplain my sexuality, it’s liquid, it’s living, no rules, no convention, this love can go wherever it wants”. It’s the kind of candid, confessional lyricism used so effectively by John Grant on last year’s Pale Green Ghosts.
Last year’s “Misogyny Drop Dead” and “Patriarchy Over & Out” (both included here) from the year before indicated a more musically direct approach but the former’s complicated beats and hard rave stabs with everything slightly off pace and a bassline doesn’t match the beats is just too messy to warrant multiple listens.
The majority of the music here is sparse, crisp minimal beats, the atmospherics of dubstep fused with highly minimal IDM, the production focuses towards the space beyond the sound, similar to the post-dub techniques used so well by Martin Hannett in the early eighties. It deceptively makes you think there’s not much happening here but is in fact a highly complex thing that needs care and attention, only then do you realize we have been offered Rostron’s heart on a plate.