To Rococo Rot - Instrument (4 stars)

To Rococo Rot - Instrument

Another exciting and optimistic version of the future from the post-rock/ambient outfit

(City Slang)

They’re less a band, more a three-piece art unit, and To Rococo Rot's continuing exploration of a territory that borders electronic, ambient and post-rock has been one of the richest and most compelling threads of the last 15 years in music. Since the release of The Amateur View on City Slang in 1999 – a label they return to for this release – the Berlin-based group have been quietly redefining the possibilities of how the synth- and laptop-derived electronics of minimal techno can interact with bass and a drumkit.

It's been four years since Speculation, and fertile side projects from all members in the interim have included collaborations with Hans-Joachim Roedelius (of Cluster and Harmonia) in Roedelius Schneider, Cloudland with heavyweight Italian contemporary composer / pianist Ludovico Einaudi, Pianotapes with Bill Wells, plus their ongoing Tarwater, Mapstation and Robert Lippok solo guises.

As ever, the fluid and distinctive bass playing style of Stefan Schneider continues to root a lot of their sound on Instrument. Likewise, where lone producers, or bands, might take the abstract pulsing electronics that underpin ‘Besides Down in The Traffic’ and ‘Pro Model’ down a multi-layered crescendo route, the jazz-tinged drumming of Ronald Lippok always results in something with compulsive driving momentum that retains a restrained, loose funkiness.

One new thing here is vocals – and it's those of New York no wave figurehead Arto Lindsay, whose soft voice features on several tracks, as does his primitive abrasive guitar – every bit the electric descendant of Derek Bailey – on textural ‘Longest Elevator in the World’ and more. Elsewhere, primitively recorded pianos add to the casual atmosphere. Despite any additions and innovations brought to the table, Instrument is unmistakably the sound of To Rococo Rot. In their own modest way, they’ve been sounding like an exciting and optimistic version of the future for a long time – and they still do.

To Rococo Rot

The German post-rock and electronic trio perform tracks from their latest album Instrument. The band's name is a palindrome. Fun fact.