A few weeks back, To Rococo Rot (mild-mannered qualified music engineers) released their 12th album ‘Instrument’ (succinct, direct, pretty awesome…but more on that later). They also popped round to play some shows at Cafe OTO (hot, compressed, fun) and Rough Trade East (dunno, I sat outside getting drunk with Anil).
To Rococo Rot: Instrument LP (City Slang)
So, To Rococo Rot are German and as we all now know German’s are winner’s at football and music. Ergo, that automatically makes TRR winner’s. Having carefully sculpted out a musical trajectory that’s lasted the best part of two decades means they must be doing something right. And with the vocal help of No-Wave hero Arto Lindsay, they come even closer to bending the prism of pop for their own ends. Arto’s light feminine delivery works as a perfect counterpoint to the scuzzy backing. But its the dark-alley swagger of ‘Baritone’ that steals the record for me.
To Rococo Rot Live @ Cafe Oto, London. 21st July 2014
Too lazy to write reviews of live gigs these day’s so instead I filmed them. Here’s TRR turning up the heat in the already sauna-like confines of Cafe OTO….
...oh yeah and I nearly got mugged by some crackhead in the local corner shop just before the gig. So a successful evening all round.
Mark Fell vs To Rococo Rot
And finally, a quick chat with Mark Fell - he of SND and all those marvellous ‘transformative techno’ records - who designed the striking cover for 'Instrument'....
Q: How did the artwork for ‘Instrument’ come about?
A: Robert Lippok saw a poster for a japanese tour I was doing with NHK. The poster included the colourful shape that I designed. Robert liked this and asked me to design the cover. I did some different versions but in the end they liked the image i used for my tour with NHK the best.
Q. You are primarily known as a musician, where did the interest in producing visual art come from?
A. I never studied music. after leaving school I studied graphic design and the experimental media art. So I’m probably more at home in the visual art world in many ways.
Q. Does there have to be a relationship between the sleeve design and the music?
A. There is always some kind of relationship. The listener always constructs one I think. But for me I never have any kind of formal or mathematic relation between the two.
Q. Would like to do more artwork for other artists and if so, who?
A. Yeah, the Human League perhaps.
Q. What’s one of your favourite sleeve designs and why?
A. Actually early To Rococo Rot sleeves were really nice - the Paris EP and Veiculo were both really good.
Fennesz: Endless Summer LP (Editions Mego)
Bit late to the party I know, but this was triggered after hearing Fennesz’s latest album ‘Becs’. Which turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Almost a step backwards from this, his breakthrough, genre-busting, timeless classic from 2001. I’m listening to the 2010 remastered reissue which bolts on a few extra tracks and extends 'Happy Audio' another into something far more epic. And time has not eroded its fractured, delicate signal. All wrapped up in that stunning Tina Frank artwork.
Marcus Fengler: Fokus LP (Ostgut Ton)
Another Ostgut Ton alumni whose first name is Marcel. But unlike Dettman’s recent abysmal poor showing, Fengler fares better with ‘Fokus' (nice alliteration?!). Anyway, pared down techno as you’d expect from music designed for Berghain for the most part. But this rises above the usual cliche by actually being quite pleasant home listening. With welcome diversions into electronica and ambient. The closing phases of the album jettison the 4/4 in favour of playful rhythmic and melodic interplay. But the highlight is ‘Jaz’, which sounds like a long lost love letter from Detroit.
Felix K - Flowers of Destruction 3 x LP (Hidden Hawaii)
Mysterious, dark, filmic, brooding….all the characteristics that electronic music excels at are effortlessly executed here. And despite being on the scene since the mid-90’s, this is actually Felix K’s debut album. Basslines act like malevolent pulses, melody is haunted and expansive. Rhythmically this takes its cues from a reductive version of drum’n bass. The whole thing should be treated as one, but if I was to pick out any particular moment, it would be the Hans Zimmer-esque synthetic surround of ‘#5’. A powerful statement of intent.