Renowned for her prosthetic face mask, androgynous vocals and themes of gender inequality, Berlin-based UK producer Planningtorock is perhaps understandably often compared to Lady Gaga. But unlike her superstar peer, whose ordinary EDM-pop sits at odds with the extraordinary way in which she hypes it up, Jam Rostron and her alter-ego’s third studio effort, All Love’s Legal, is as wonderfully strange as her image.
Released through her own Human Level imprint, the follow-up to 2011’s W is in fact exactly the kind of record you’d have expected ARTPOP to sound like from Gaga’s “reverse Warholian expedition” promo spiel, imbuing everything from New York disco to 80s synth-pop to avant-garde electronica with a warped sense of style that’s as hypnotic as it is peculiar.
Lead single “Human Drama” is a bewitching blend of plucked pizzicato strings, Vangelis-esque synths and finger-snapping rhythms whose shape-shifting production cleverly matches its “fluidity of sexuality” subject matter. The disjointed beats and persistent synth-brass hooks of “Public Love” recalls the frenzied intensity of previous collaborators The Knife, while “All Love’s Legal,” which pushes Planningtorock’s “degenderized” vocals to the forefront, sounds like a long lost Depeche Mode classic given a chamber pop makeover.
Occasionally, the weirdness gets a little much. “Misogyny Drops Dead” begins with a neat funky bassline but quickly descends into a slightly discordant blend of caterwauling and twisted classic house loops. Elsewhere, “Purple Love,” one of three brief interludes included on All Love’s Legal, is little more than a deranged ramble played over a spooky wind sound effect.
But overall, Planningtorock gets the balance between the challenging and the listenable just about right on a record which makes Gaga and her pretentious grandstanding claims appear even more foolish.