Over the course of 18 years, Berlin-Duesseldorf trio To Rococo Rot have carved an identifiable niche for themselves and one which has crossed a variety of styles; neither wholly in the realms of ambient or pure electronics. The late 1990s albums of Veiculo and The Amateur View brought their fundamental and innovative landscapes of sound to the fore while 2001’s collaboration with I-Sound, Music is a Hungry Ghost, showed their ability to blend disparate influences into something cohesive. Remixed by Four Tet and Daniel Miller and heralded by the likes of Modeselektor, their influence extends as far as their unique approach deserves.
The music of brothers Robert and Ronald Lippok and Stefan Schneider has always existed in its own world and Instrument is a landmark album for the group. The serenely soft melodies of No Wave pioneer Arto Lindsay (Lounge Lizards/Ambitious Lovers/DNA) adorn three tracks, offering up a new perspective. Though melodies have always been a big part of their sound, the inclusion of a human voice is a distinctive modification making it the most accessible introduction to their world of diverse electronics and experimentation.
Next comes Besides with its calming and ambient tones. This song has all those things that allow it to be the sort of background music everyone should have in their lives.
Down In The Traffic appears next with its jazz inspired ambience. The drum beat is heavily influenced by jazz and the whole song is mesmerising and interesting yet soothing. The melody is repetitive but it never becomes boring – there are so many other layers to this track that are brought in gradually which builds the song and allows it to expand and breathe, give it that pulsating effect. Similarly, Baritone has the same feel to it; it’s jazz with a distinct twist. In the background, there’s a synth used which creates the effect of distorted human voices. If you listen really carefully, it sounds like people talking in atmospheric places like cafes and coffee shops giving it that very real feel. There’s a sense of sophistication in this track – you imagine that those indecipherable conversations are of philosophy and poetry.
The last track on the album, Longest Escalator In The World is a little bit John Martyn influences on tracks of his such as Small Hours. It’s incredibly unusual and heavily synth based which all makes it entirely atmospheric and indulgent. There’s the recognisable spontaneous guitar twangs, lingering synths and randomness that make this song feel like Small Hours. There are also world influences heard in the drumming introducing a whole other level to Longest Escalator In The World.
Instrument may be a To Rococo Rot record unlike any other – and one that treads unfamiliar ground – but it also represents a return to the beginning. Instrument is out now via City Slang.