The term ‘zeitgeist’ is bandied around all the time I know, especially by us bloggers, but on listening to Planningtorock‘s new album ‘W’ around 15 times this week, I’ve been reflecting on what feels like something bubbling away.
Unwillingly, unknowingly, but gratefully, I think I fell into something in 2009 whilst watching Fever Ray‘s live show for the first time. She drew out my childhood obsession with disguise and role play, in the most personally significant and influential way. I realised it’s possible to avoid the depressingly vapid options for ‘how to be perceived’, or at least, ‘how to represent oneself’ as a woman-in-music – something which has always been an ongoing issue for me – both as consumer and as product.
– OK, so this is beginning to sound like the topic of an essay in Gender Studies from the 1980’s, and of course, I’m all too aware that progress since the cross-gender personae Bowie/Prince/Grace Jones created way before I was even born, has not really moved. However, I view it as a process of refinement for some extremely important socio-cultural ideas…
Two years on from the laser-lit Corn Exchange in Brighton, I’m sat in my studio constructing various shape-shifting concepts. Looking at ways to dislodge my female/national/human identity, and try to make live performances a little more interesting than the run-of-the-mill. It’s not easy to do this in a media-world obsessed with knowing everything about your personal life. And then there’s the competition and endless comparison with those other artists who claim to be cutting edge by revelling in the remnants of other people’s ideas, or in misguided notions of ‘mystery’ and fake personae, never really letting go of the part of themselves that truly matters.
Thankfully there are a few out there to take true inspiration from. Those who successfully explore this realm with intelligence and ingenuity. Completely at ease with her own creation is, Planningtorock, who shows attention to detail and to the significance in her re-appropriation of the human self. She breaks down her constituent elements and reshuffles them into an androgynous, intriguing mutant with the voice and musical expression to back it up. This is not ‘dressing up’ or ‘look at me’ role play. It’s the real thing.
The new video, ‘The Breaks’, is like a cryptic, deep vision of the future with the claws of the past sharpened at the ready. Frightening and sublime.