To Rococo Rot - Speculation Album Review09 Jun 2010
There's been quite a lot of 'Sonic cathedral of sound' type critical acclaim for 'Speculation', the eighth album from Berlin tri o To Rococo Rot. Some of it must surely be due to the irony of Germans doing krautrock - as opposed to the minimalist techno which the Kompakt label has become renowned for - but the idea that somehow it's a perfect hybrid of The Man Machine and Tortoise's Standards is quite simply wrong I'm afraid.
I blame Wikipedia myself. After all, the researcher's bible happily informs the uninitiated that the group 'combine electronic and acoustic elements to create instrumental post-rock and electronic music'. Blimey. If all this sounds to you like the whiff of intellectual elitism, then let me put it more simply - To Rococo Rot don't believe in songs with words, sometimes use highly repetitive musical phrases and generally make stuff that ends up as the incidental music during something broadcast on the Discovery channel.
Before I get anybody with a Ph.D very cross and end up being challenged to a really competitive game of urban Scrabble, this doesn't mean that there aren't things on Speculation that your typical fan of the more orthodox can't get a hold of. Both opener 'away' and 'working against time' (Like, not capitalising words in the song titles must be soooo cool...) are highly reminiscent of the collision between post-punk and proto electronics which was pioneered by New Order on Power Corruption & Lies. When at their most accessible, as with the swirly IDM of 'place it', TRR conjure up vestiges of B12 - and the insistent virtual marimbas of forwardness were just made for a documentary about Lemurs, or bloody Meerkats.
Fine so far, but it's also true that Speculation gathers a weary sense of legacy around its closing stages. The whole thing apparently was recorded at Faust's studio 'Live' - I use the word divorced from its normal context - with closer 'fridays' even featuring a contribution from Hans Joachim Irmler. This may be an enticement to some, but in reality the track is little more than ten minutes of drone for people with beards to sit watching the Open University to. Both its freewheeling antecedents 'ship' and 'bells' are little better, although in mitigation they're equally propelled with some alacrity by Stefan Schneider's hypnotic bass lines.
Ok, so I get that my tiny IQ is insufficient to fully understand the aural majesty of these cloudburst soundscrapes, or whatever. All I'm saying is that for those of us who weren't raised on Neu! and haven't ever played World of Warcraft for say, thirty six hours straight without changing our pants, then Speculation should be approached with caution.