To Rococo Rot: Speculation
When I first encountered the phrase post-rock back in the late 90s it meant something quite different to what it does now. Instead of sprawling and often brickbat epics, with increasingly predictable quiet-loud structures, it was a mix – subtle, nuanced and tender – of rock, of the kraut or progressive variety, and electronics that found their precursors in IDM or earlier analogue excursions.
Two bands seemed to forefront this genre back then: Tortoise and To Rococo Rot. The former had their moments, but I could hear too much Jazz in their noodling. The latter foregrounded the electronics and had my ear instantly. So upon hearing TRR’s Speculation I thought it proper to check and listen to what I owned of their back catalogue only to find the cupboard bare – it seems it was housed on tapes (times were hard) that have long since ‘recycled’. Hence I might not be able sequence their latest output or tell of the progression (or lack of it) on Speculation, but I can at least attempt to delimit the sounds on offer.
Speculation is one of those albums that on initial listening will not demand to be heard – it’s not brash and it’s not precocious, yet given time it’s incredibly rewarding. Eschewing a need to startle or assault, TRR arrange electronics so that they ooze an organics that warmly synchronises with skittering drum patterns and heavy (at times very heavy) bass.
‘Seele’ offers up a two-note piano riff with gargantuan reverb whilst dub bass chimes with sonar-like electronics. The throb and pulse of ‘Horses’ is married to an off-beat loop that teeters on reversal. ‘Forwardness’ begins as minimal techno and then gradually builds to an embrace of glockenspiel and light touch percussion. ‘No Way to Prepare’ temporarily breaks up the love-in with the sound of a recalcitrant machine before ‘Working Against Time’ urges you on to eccentric relaxation of ‘Place It’. The final track ‘Fridays’ is all deep ambient swirls and oceanic echoes that demands you submit to its charms.
Perhaps Speculation could be deemed old-skool post-rock. Yet this would only sully something that gives Four Tet’s There Is Love In You a run for the masterfully modern award.
Speculate to accumulate here.