TO ROCOCO ROT
Speculation is the new, perfectly titled, To Rococo Rot album, recorded in part at Faust’s studio at Scheer.
To Rococo Rot, the trio of Stefan Schneider and brothers Robert and Ronald Lippok, arrived just over a decade ago at the point where digital precision and instrumental abstraction were harnessed into new directions in contemporary music, detached and accessible. Their early albums, Veiculo and The Amateur View, spoke in the future imperfect tense, highly complex but concentrated sound happenings.
On Speculation the language, unembellished in character, has changed. This is a record that celebrates uncertainty. Driven by the sound of fingers on instruments, pushing and weaving between the electric pulse, Speculation bathes in a midpoint between propulsion and letting go. According to Schneider, Faust’s studio had an obvious effect on this new direct approach:
“The atmosphere at the Faust studio was really special as it is located in a remote rural region of southern Germany. The technical set up at the studio is very basic and regular in a good way. So we could record our music almost like a band playing a live show in order to achieve maximum brilliance and plasticity.”
To Rococo Rot have always been very unsentimental in their use of technology and musical equipment. On Seele a piano cloud of sustain pedal hangs in the air whilst Ronald Lippok’s drums race against themselves, Forwardness oscillates around a tiki-like percussive loop and crash cymbals, suggesting that going round in circles is a great place to be.
Rather than a precisely integrated mix of instruments and samples, of analogue and digital, the sounds on Speculation delight in an elegant abrasion, in an ability to jar. The effect is disconnected-ness, which, one look at the world around you will tell you, feels very real. There are indicators and echoes that this is a place very different to where To Rococo Rot came in, but somewhere we have visited before. Throughout Speculation, Stefan Schneider’s bass occupies the distinct space between melody and rhythm that was defined by early New Order and ACR records. Played with a strident vulnerability it’s an almost re-assuring presence, the sound of blood-heat. No single idea on Speculation is overplayed. Apart from Fridays, none of track hits the 4minuntes mark.
Speculation’s closing tracks Bells and Fridays, replete with pastoral guitars and kosmiche organ inhabit the same starriness and dark matter as electronic music pioneers Cluster and Harmonia. In a nicely defined moment of kosmiche brotherhood, Faust’s Jochen Irmler plays organ on Fridays. A veteran tiller on the hands of the space music wheel, his stateless chords dissolve the generation gap between two sets of pioneering musik arbeiter, Schneider notes:
“Jochen Irmler of Faust would join us from time to time or he would just start to play something on his self built organ which we would accompany. The sound of his organ is absolutely unique and sharp and therefore fitted very much to the roughness of our recordings. Maybe that is what we call the amateur view.”
Closing in a sea of electronic washes Speculation sets itself adrift to wonder and wander in the ether, repeating and circling in the haze, constantly shifting, like the band’s palindromic name.