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Members include Rober tLippok, guitar, electronics; Ronald Lippok, drums, effects; Stefan Schneider, bass. Addresses: Record company--Mute Records (U.S.), 140 W. 22nd St., 10th Floor, New York City, NY 10011 Phone: (212) 255-7670 Fax: (212) 255-6056 E-mail: e-mail: email@example.com.
To Rococo Rot--originally the title of an art exhibition held by brothers/founders Robert and Ronald Lippok in Berlin in the mid-1990s--counts among the leading experimental acts to emerge from Germany. Their music, "a precise electronic sound architectural in its arrangement and often very beautiful," as described by Jack Barron of Melody Maker, takes cues from dance and hip-hop, yet at the same time incorporates a variety of other styles. Thus, no one particular type of music figures prominently in To Rococo Rot's sound. "We use everything we can get to create our sound," said Ronald Lippok, who also serves as one-half of the group Tarwater with Bernd Jestram, as quoted by Billboard magazine's Dylan Siegler. "In Tarwater and To Rococo Rot, we're not purists, and the side of our music that involves technology is not a big thing to us."
In fact, Lippok stresses that his group's inspiration comes primarily from punk rock and performance-art scores, thereby resisting the ever-enduring myth that Germans always gravitate toward machines and the industrial. Whereas many electronic bands tend to grow more and more detached, To Rococo Rot favor melodies, laid-back ambient arrangements, and "sweeping, intricately constructed panoramas," according to Rolling Stone contributor Neva Chonin. The group's tendency to combine electronic and acoustic forms has led to comparisons to American acts such as Tortoise, Trans Am, and Romes, as well as to European groups like Circle, Stereolab, and Fridge. They have released two "proper" albums: Veiculo in 1997 and The Amateur Viewin 1999, a "moving, amusing, and utterly compelling" set, according to Barron.
Formed in Berlin, Germany, in 1995, experimentalists Robert Lippok, on guitar and electronics, and Ronald Lippok, on drums and effects, created To Rococo Rot following a stint with a free-form performance art and music collective. Enlisting bassist Stefan Schneider, also a member of the highly regarded German group Kreidler, the two brothers initially set out to develop music for their stage performances. The result was a combination of electronic engineering and sampling, as well as entertainment. Although more of a multimedia installation in the beginning, the trio soon wanted to demonstrate that their creations were not reserved for the art-school scene, and, accordingly, released their music as an untitled, vinyl-only picture disc and began playing live as To Rococo Rot. The recording was later reissued in 1996 by the Kitty Yo label, titled simply cd. Although rough around the edges compared to later records, Richard Fontenoy in Rock: The Rough Guide likened the trio's debut to "a feast of shifting structures and hypnotic texturing."
With cd and subsequent albums, To Rococo Rot made an overt attempt to marry the art-school sensibility of experimentation with the accessibility of pop music. With such intentions, they joined the burgeoning German electronic rock scene of the 1990s, one that harkened back to 1970s experimentalists such as Can, Neu!, Amon Duul, and Cluster and upgraded the sounds of the past with technical innovations such as hard-disc recording and digital sampling. "And while they don't disguise their music's mechanized origins," explained Siegler, "the humans involved impart undeniable melodic sophistication.... [T]hese groups' low-key experiments in whirring trance, amiable ambient, and minimalist melodicism represent a unified German musical front not matched in the United States since the dawn of Krautrock." Along with To Rococo Rot and the band members' respective side projects Tarwater and Kreidler, other bands associated with this period of creativity included Mouse On Mars and Schneider TM, both of which were lauded by the British press and achieved success with the alternative crowd in the United States.
In particular, To Rococo Rot has established themselves as one of the more florid of these groups, "offering staggered, hollow drum beats and samples woven into thoughtful polyphony," continued Siegler. This organic quality was fully evidenced on the trio's first "proper" studio album, Veiculo. Released in 1997 on the City Slang label and produced with David Moufang of the Deep Space Network and Source Records, the album won wider attention than the group's debut, receiving a warm reception in both the dance club and rock circles. Fontenoy described Veiculo as "a selection of lo- and hi-tech devices blended into a groovy hybrid sound of music in transition, all bleeps, cycled samples, and heavy on the low end, too."
A successful live act as well as producers of what is often referred to as a sort of onstage laboratory, To Rococo Rot gained more fans with showings at festivals such as Popkomm in Cologne, Germany. Thereafter, the trio released the Paris 25 EP, consisting of two remixed tracks and three new postmodern dance floor tracks. By now attracting offers from record companies in the United States, To Rococo Rot signed a deal in 1998 with Mute Records for American distribution. Their music, said Mute chairman Daniel Millers to Siegler, has "a broad appeal for people listening to dance and alternative. They're accessible and listenable in their own way." Early the following year, the group appeared at Mute's Mini-Meltdown festival with Kreidler, as well as the legendary band Faust, and released a ten-inch single entitled "Telema" to precede their next album.
In the spring of 1999, To Rococo Rot arrived with The Amateur View, garnering rave reviews in both Europe and overseas. Here, the trio opted for less dub, and more emphasis on sparse arrangements and melody, as well as a polished and totally professional sound. "Over the course of eleven tracks," wrote Ryan Schreiber for Pitchfork, "you'll be led through another green world and into a sea of such remarkable tranquility, you'd think you were on a moonbase. The music's underwater, oceanic attributes are perfect for a day in the tub, lounging in your temperature-controlled environment, dreaming of a swim in a rural Minnesota lake." Highlights from the album included "Greenwich," a track employing distant urban noises--the tapping of a manual typewriter--and jazzy keyboards, and "A Little Asphalt Here and There," a song that "takes listeners on an aural stroll so immediate, it's almost tactile--past sites of hissing white noise, through valleys of murmuring synths, across bright patches of chattering drum machines."
To Rococo Rot also prefer live recording to remixing, and to that end often collaborate with other musicians to blend electronics with instrumentation. For example, "A Little Asphalt Here and There" features New York-based turntablist I-Sound. In the past, the trio has also worked with the likes of Move D from Heidelberg, Germany's Source Records, as well as D from London's Soul Static record label. Always looking to the future yet appealing to the more mainstream listener, To Rococo Rot have already proven themselves an important presence in the rock world. "At least as far as rock (as opposed to techno/drum 'n' bass) is concerned," concluded Fontenoy about the trio's influence, "the futuristic present hasn't sounded this good for a very long time."
by Laura Hightower
To Rococo Rot's Career
Formed trio in Berlin, Germany, 1995; signed with City Slang, released first "proper" album Veiculo, 1997; released The Amateur View, 1999.
- Selected discography
- cd Kitty Yo, 1996.
- Veiculo City Slang, 1997.
- Paris 25 (EP), Emperor Jones, 1998.
- The Amateur View City Slang/Mute, 1999.
- Buckley, Jonathan and others, editors, Rock: The Rough Guide, Rough Guides Ltd., 1999.
- Billboard, May 22, 1999.
- Melody Maker, April 24, 1999.
- Rolling Stone, August 19, 2000.
- Audiogalaxy, http://www.audiogalaxy.com (November 27, 2000).
- City Slang, http://www.cityslang.com (November 27, 2000).
- Ink Blot, http://www.inkblotmagazine.com (November 27, 2000).
- Pitchfork, http://www.pitchforkmedia.com (November 27, 2000).
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