To Rococo Rot | RUG265 | Released: 22/10/07
Arising out of a commission which relates to the 50th anniversary of the enduring Helvetica typeface, To Rococo Rot finally reconvene to make some new music which has very little in common with their most recent Hotel Morgen set. If Hotel Morgen seemed very much a continuation of the TRR aesthetic, all linear patterns and analogue warmth, abc123 goes for something more spontaneous; a quicker, more digital kind of fun.
Stefan Schneider, one-third of this always fascinating Berlin-Dusseldorf unit, explains that there was was no big concept behind the recordings, other than he felt a possibility of doing something 'in an alphabetical sense'. By that, he explains, that some of the midifiles on his computer were arranged in a graphical rather than musical way, and he would draw the letter X or the letter L on his midifile window and the computer would play them. 'I was curious to see how the music would come out if you do something that is not made with a musical logic. I knew that John Cage once did a piece where a chessboard was mechanically connected to four individual sound sources. The chessplayers were generating the sounds randomly by moving the figures from one field to the other. That was what I was thinking of.' He admits that fellow members Robert and Ronald Lippok possibly had very different ideas but that rather than discussing everything they just wanted to cut straight into the music moment.
For this reason, TRR took the decision to abandon their usual setup which includes drums, bass, and analogue synths, reasoning that it had can take too long to achieve good sound with this kind of instrumentation, and instead compose only on computer, with only one old favourite piece of kit - Ronald's Yamaha vss30. Robert confirms that it was more about building a fast and flexible unit, with minimal preparation times between each piece, and more or less seeing what would happen. One other important factor is that the three musicians were not synched and so had to respond quickly to important details like bpm, which actually gives the music a very charming awkwardness which they decided to embrace. Stefan declares himself very pleased with the conciseness of the mini-album format, eight songs in 21 minutes, which he compares to a 1980s Dusseldorf punk band, Mittagpause, who released an 11 song double 7" which always made him feel he'd had a total listening experience absolutely at odds with the running time.
Simply paying homage to a design classic like Helvetica would not really be the TRR way; instead they seem to draw inspiration from the familiarity / blankness of the format and imagine it as a whole new alphabet. In a way this is why Helvetica is the perfect typeface to move forward with and why it is open to the kind of new possibilities which are suggested on this engaging, engaged mini-album. TRR have some shows later this year and hope to record a new album in the spring. For now they intend to stay with the successful method of abc123; short time frame, simple setup.