To Rococo Rot

Hotel Morgen






The brothers Robert & Ronald Lippok and Stefan Schneider release warm electronic music under their band name To Rococo Rot (forwards ever, backwards never? Not to be adapted to this band name). Since 1996, they have released several albums that aren‘t necessarily strictly Ambient, but always mellow and soothing. Hotel Morgen consists of a distinctly sedate contemplation caused on the whole by the prominent inclusion of acoustic guitars, and I consider this work to be the band‘s best to this day – in terms of its tranquil insouciance, so the mileage of many a listener who prefers more electronic, colder compositions may vary. This is the only band I know of that succeeds with the integration of acoustic guitars and similar string instruments while repelling the danger of the Folk categorization which is easily at hand when such guitars are heard in electronic soundscapes. The band members stitch the multiple layers of each song together in a congenial way and allow themselves to branch off in both upbeat and droning glitch territory without giving the listener a headache or exaggerating the amount of crackles and hisses. In this review, I will only concentrate on the Ambient-esque songs of Hotel Morgen, and as such is the case, I don‘t consider my viewpoint to be of much help in general and am aware of my narrow-minded approach. It‘s still a helpful guidepost for the reader who doesn‘t know of the band or this album but is interested in organic, analogue Ambient tunes. With these things in mind, let‘s check the hotel service.


I‘m skimming over Dahlem with its 6/8 beat, Casio keyboard-like melody and lush guitars and go right to the next bunch of tracks. Cosimo is built upon an echoey, tremoling piano melody that is accompanied by additional pops and swooshing noises. Even though a dominant breakbeat is added, the song retains its warming qualities with curious chirping sounds and radiant synth pads. These bits may be seen as contrasting devices to the warmth, but in fact amplify the feeling of playfulness. Tal (German for valley) brings the synths into position: glowing one-note strings, a vestigial melody on the guitar, a dominantly shuffling percussion and the chirping of synth birds encapsulate a beautiful spring day in this song. It is the gigantic song Feld that really pushes all the right buttons: a dubby bassline, plucking on an acoustic guitar, swirling loops of modulated machine-like drones that intensify within seconds and recede after 90 seconds. Now the dubby bassline is everything that‘s left next to quirky, pristine sound effects. The drone loops then come back, and short thick synth bursts perfectly match the droning atmosphere. Quite a hectical and yet curiously comforting track. The following Portrait Song is another short stormer, although a quiet, fragile one. The most beautiful acoustic guitar loops are intertwined with high-pitched, coruscating synth pads that are very effective as they keep stuck in the head. A very stripped down example of what the band is capable of, although it doesn‘t feel minimal, but rich and well texturized due to its organic vibe. The following Sol is a sparkling vibraphone song and especially light-footed, evoking a carefree mood with the help of vibrant, clear percussive elements with a slight hint of bongos. Venus is a short sawtooth-heavy Ambient piece with 8-bit charme: dark and bright synth pads with glittering bells indulge in enjoyable synth experiments of the late 70‘s. The third huge stormer after Feld and Portrait Song is, in my book, a track called Non Song, and despite its title, it is a mesmerizing hit, a huge source of tranquility I keep coming back to. A pulsating warm one-note synth layer is played throughout the first 3 minutes of the song while flittering melodies are sauntering, deep basslines are rambling and pops are crackling. To Rococo Rot‘s most hypnotizing song to this day and with a duration of almost 4 and a half minutes a rightly edited one that ends before it bores the listener. Highly recommended. Ovo is the 12th of 14 songs, but the last one I‘m reviewing, as it accomplishes the perfect symbiosis of the aforementioned Glitch elements with organic warmth: bubbling bass bursts, beautiful piano fragments, static noise bits and phenomenally euphonious strings of a harp or a similarly tweaked string instrument are all of contradictory nature, but somehow the band manages to tie them together in this short tune. An interesting side effect of the fragmented nature is the various pauses and short spaces that occur. It‘s the only song that contains these interesting disruptive interplays between space and sound.


This is the perfect Sunday afternoon album, when you are relaxed and don‘t have anything important to do. The title Hotel Morgen also implies a generous feeling of auroral goodwill and an optimistic view of the future. The predecessor Music Is A Hungry Ghost of 2001 is an equally attractive album, but more keen on electronic sounds and the skillful cleverness in dealing with the synthesizers. On Hotel Morgen, however, the focus lies on a more organic vibe with the prominent addition of string instruments and gemmy spots of galactic synth pads. Since there are 3 highly successful ambient songs on the album plus the same amount of equally melodious and cozy percussive pieces, I don‘t consider the whole album a success, as there are songs of a different style which I don‘t like as much as the Ambient pieces. However, the few songs that I have mentioned above are essential to me, and Hotel Morgen thus earns my recommendation. The mediocre pieces are quite interesting, and the good pieces are nothing short of brilliant and fantastic, in a nutshell: Portrait Song, Non Song, Ovo and Feld are my particular favorites. Pre-listen to those and find out if I am horribly wrong.




Ambient Review 027: To Rococo Rot – Hotel Morgen (2004). Originally published on Jan. 25, 2012 at