Published Jul 25, 2010More adventurous post-rock fans may recall that the Berlin trio of Robert and Ronald Lippok, and Stefan Schneider burst onto the avant-electronics scene in the mid-'90s with a flurry of activity that included not only their visionary albums as To Rococo Rot, but also offshoots such as Tarwater and Kreidler. With instant classics like 1997's Veiculo and 1999's The Amateur View under their belts, many thought the collective were poised to reinvent the future of electronic home listening music. As it turns out, that wouldn't be the case. Apart from a low-profile album here and there since 2001's Music Is a Hungry Ghost ― their last major statement ― Schneider and the Lippok brothers have been content to pursue paths outside of music and record only intermittently. Fifteen years after getting together, To Rococo Rot now return with a seventh album, Speculation, which sees the trio moving their once-visionary electronic sound into the more comfortable organic territory of classic Krautrock. The shift in directions to long and hypnotic instrumental jams suits To Rococo Rot at this juncture in their careers. Working with Faust's Jochen Irmler, at that band's legendary Scheer studio, the trio absorb both the idyllic countryside atmosphere and the studio's vaunted history to deliver ten of their most assured tracks in a decade. The album's highlight comes at the end, with the nearly 11-minute "Friday," with Irmler joining the band on organ.
How did the relationship with Irmler begin?
Robert Lippok: We were invited to a very small festival near his studio in the south of Germany, and he said to us, "while you're there, come to my studio. I'll give you food and accommodations, and you can record for three of four days." Happily, we said yes. It was completely new for us; we had never recorded in the countryside or while living all together. We thought we always needed to be apart from each other while recording so that everyone can go off and do their own stuff when not recording. This time, it was pretty different because we lived together; Jochen was always cooking every night. He's like an alchemist when he cooks: he starts in the morning and even he doesn't know what it will be come evening. We became this little family unit thing and we were very happy with the results. We had always thought of ourselves as a big city band; we felt more at home in Berlin than in small places. But this special case for us turned out to be ideal.
This album was recorded in January 2009. Why so long to finally release it?
Yes, most of it was recorded then. We had done a short session with Irmler earlier in the summer of the year before and then he invited us to come back. That was when we did it. We recorded it all in four days. For our first album, we actually recorded the whole thing in two days and a month later the album was in the shops. This time, we recorded fast, but we also had a strong feeling about the music that it wasn't like some of the old drum & bass or grime stuff, which has to be out this week or else it's out of fashion. We thought that this music could come out in 2010 or even 2012. We finished the recordings, we did the artwork, we talked to Domino about when to release it, but there was no rush from our side.
It is a very timeless sounding album. It could've come out in the late '90s or even the late '70s.
I would say yes to the late '90s and no to the late '70s [laughs]. I think, in electronic music, there's a gap before techno and after techno in the way that music is structured and of using sounds. When you listen to '70s electronic music, a lot of it is based on harmonic stuff through sequencers and things like that. But apart from all this musique concrete, Pierre Henry stuff, it was all beautiful sounds like Tangerine Dream. When techno came, it brought a completely different attitude towards producing tracks. So I would say yes to the '90s, even if I have some concerns about that too.
I say that only because this is your least techno-oriented album; it's very organic. The Faust influence comes through and there are elements of Can. It makes some obvious connections to that history of German music.
I think there was a deliberate step from us. People have always said to us, "you remind us of Cluster" or "you're part of this tradition." But all three of us were actually more directly influenced by punk rock and new wave and all this music from the '80s. Of course, that music was influenced by all the Krautrock stuff. So the Krautrock influence is definitely in our music, but through the filter of American and British new wave and punk rock. We've always felt not so connected to the actual source, but now, due to the invitation of Jochen to his studio, we decided to say yes to Krautrock and see where the connections are and where we can build our own environment out of these elements. (Domino)