TO ROCOCO ROT: ABC123 (Domino Recording Co.)


Posted on Nov 7th 2007 02:05 am

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To Rococo Rot: ABC123

Domino Recording Co. 2007
08 Tracks. 19mins49secs

Helvetica. Unless you have lived under a stone of in a cave for the last fifty years, you have, knowingly or not, been exposed to the ubiquitous typeface created by Swiss font foundry Haas. Revered by most typographists and graphic designers, and used in the most common urban signage, from airport and road signs to public toilets, and from record covers to eye-catching ad campaigns, Helevetica has become the most ubiquitous modern font around, thanks to its clear lines and high readability at pretty much any size. 2007 is exactly fifty years since its creation, and the event was marked by a series of exhibitions around the world, and by a documentary investigating its impact.

Joining the celebrations, albeit with a rather loose homage, To Rococo Rot finally return, three years after they release their last effort, Hotel Morgen. Wrapped up in less than twenty minutes, this collection, which stems from a commission relating to the fiftieth anniversary of the Helvetica typeface, follows a somewhat different process than usual TRR releases. For the first time, the band rely solely on a computer and a Yamaha VSS30 synth instead of their usual arsenal of instruments, in order to keep preparations to a minimum and turn around tracks in a much shorter time. This results in much more angular pieces and a more intuitive and spontaneous creative process.

The tracks are concise and sound like miniature clockwork mechanisms, with complex percussive patterns forming the core structure of the pieces, and very little flourishes to distract from their intrinsic nature. This is perhaps most obvious on the bare spreads of LVX 4, ABC or Zigue Zague, on which shards of melody find their way through matchstick-like formations without ever developing. This is taken to a darker extreme on Verschieden, which in part recalls the minimal electronic collage developed by Kraftwerk on their Radio Activity album, but the addition of a concussed theme propels the piece in a different direction.

At the other end of the scale, Freitag or Enigma appear surprisingly straightforward. Unexpected reflections of more common TRR grounds, these two pieces appear slightly out of place here and peel away part of the more experimental cloak that covers the rest of ABC123, but their graceful melodic swirls and sophisticated arrangements also provide an interesting counterpoint to the band’s more abstract compositions.

ABC123 represents something of an oddity in the To Rococo Rot story. Far from the rich sonic concoctions that they usually favour, the trio rely on minimal soundscapes and melodic sketches. Deep down though, this record bears the band’s distinctive mark and undoubtedly proves a welcome addition to their discography.


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