Playlist: To Rococo Rot's Modern History Of German Music

Essential sounds, post-reunification…

Berlin experimentalists To Rococo Rot have just recently issued their eighth studio LP, ‘Instrument’, through City Slang. A study of delicate minimalism, buzzing electronics and driving rhythms, it’s a record that long-term fans will likely have seen coming, but that doesn’t make it any the less engrossing for newcomers to the band. (Here is our review.)

To mark the album’s release, we asked brothers Ronald and Robert Lippok and bandmate Stefan Schneider to put together a more interesting-than-usual Playlist feature, focusing on the key musicians to have defined German music since reunification in 1990. And, they did. So, enjoy, right after To Rococo Rot’s own video for ‘Classify’, taken from ‘Instrument’.

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Bleibeil  

Let’s get sentimental. Berlin was so nice and grey in 1990. Shoot it with Supercolor film, and that wouldn’t have made much difference. The only thing I like about the GDR was the look. Somehow it was unreal, but at the same time you got always reminded of the Second World war, with bullet holes everywhere, and that Berlin was the epicenter and the source of it all.

Bleibeil was formed out of members of our older band Ornament und Verbrechen, an East German experimental underground combo. Later, Bo Kondren founded Calyx Mastering and Bernd Jestram worked as Tarwater with my brother Ronald. I don’t know how, but somehow Bo got the money to buy an Emax Sampler, which was incredibly expensive, esspecially for a bunch of East Germans. 

In 1988 we started a series of acid house concerts, building the live set out of the 2MB RAM that the Emax had. Ah, it was fun. 

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Kreidler – ‘Glashütte Gerresheim’ / ‘Flames’

In 1995, the Düsseldorf-based band Kreidler was invited to play at Mutzek, a former butcher’s shop turned into some sort of strange saloon. Later, this place became the famous Panasonic.

I was the DJ at that night. It was fascinating to see how Kreidler merged electronic, bass and live drumming. Stefan was playing the bass and after the show we started talking. I invited him to Berlin for an undefined project, which later became To Rococo Rot. I still like the sound of Kreidler, and just bought they recorded at Rough Trade, London after we played there. 

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Rhythm & Sound w/ Tikiman – ‘Never Tell You’

In 1996 I was sitting in a taxi, just passing Alexanderplatz, when I heard this track for the first time. I wanted the music and the taxi ride to last forever. 

I started to explore the music of Moritz von Oswald and the Hard Wax shop, and I’ve still got many of their records. And, of course, I will never sell my Rhythm & Sound 10”s. 

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Peaches – ‘F*ck The Pain Away’

Starting a revolution with one of the worst musical instruments ever built? I’m talking about Roland’s late-1990s attempt to get into the techno market, the MC-303. 

And Peaches had only this machine! This mix of punk and rough electric sounds was unique at that time, in 2000. While clubs like Berlin Tokyo were entering the scene, artists like Peaches and Jeans Team became famous. I had the strong feeling that a new decade was just starting to begin.

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errorsmith – ‘in a sweat’ (live version)

The first track I heard by errorsmith was a remix for the German band Surrugat, in 1995. I love everything errorsmith does. Even when it’s killing me while listing. Sometimes it’s getting very radical, and when he plays live you think you are jumping into an eternal looping, electronic hell. 

There is a lot humour in this, and also in (the man behind errorsmith) Erik Wiegand’s other project, MMM, even though you might not hear this in the first second. Besides making great music, Erik is friend of the Hard Wax gang and worked for Native Instruments. He developed a software synthesizer called Razor and it’s one of the few virtual instruments I really, really like, and that I use (in nearly every track).

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Ester Brinkmann – ‘Maschine’

Maybe my favourite project from everything in the Cologne techno scene, based around Kompakt. In the early- to mid-1990s, some club nights tried to play just one beat. How long can you enjoy a night out with just one drum sequence running? Quite a long time in those days. 

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Vert – ‘Drawers Of Water’

Once there was a big music fair called Popkomm in Cologne. We went every year, performing or just hanging out with friends at Hallmackenreuther, the place to be.

Close by was one of Germany’s best record stores, a-Musik. It was also the home base for many projects, like Pluramon, and Mouse On Mars. Vert is the alias of Adam Butler, and is a good example of the sound world of a-Musik at that time. Glitchy, brittle, beautiful.

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Arovane – ‘Theme’

This is the best release on the Manchester- and Berlin-based label, CCO (City Centre Offices). The whole album, ‘Tides’, is great. Around 2000, many electronic projects worked on epic melodies. It was the time of Isan and Boards Of Canada, for example. CCO was one of the leading labels for that kind of music, releasing ground-breaking records by Dub Tractor, Ulrich Schnauss and I’m Not A Gun.

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Schloss Mirabell – ‘Little Cygnet’

Schloss Mirabell is a good example of a new breed of improvised music in Berlin. She combines acoustic, in her case cello, and electronic elements with no fear of jumping over the genre borders.

The scene is growing and there are many new venues and cafe playing this stuff. Mirabell’s music is hard to catch – sometimes beat driven, sometimes completely abstract with no conventional way of developing. I’m always happy when there is a new track popping up on SoundCloud. She’s always surprising. 

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Deichkind – ‘Remmidemmi’, live at Melt 2006

And now, something completely different. Deichkind started as a German hip-hop band. German hip-hop, I know… It’s a contradiction. But this band is from Hamburg, and the people there know how to party in a very profound way, and they are making the best, most funny and silly rhymes. The music is very simple and rough. 

Deichkind became some sort of hybrid techno monster. I was at a wedding party two years ago and everybody from the 80-year-old grandma to three-year-old kids were dancing to this tune. So nice. 

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Words: Robert Lippok
Colour photo: Jens Oellermann

To Rococo Rot’s ‘Instrument’ is out now and streaming in full here. Find the band online here

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