Is it wrong to feel a little disappointed when a hitherto instrumental act adds vocals to their music? It can seem that their ideological stance, creatively speaking, has been compromised somewhat, even if by their own volition. On acclaimed Berlin experimentalists To Rococo Rot’s eighth album Instrument they have employed the vocals of US No-Wave stalwart Arto Lindsay on three tracks and it feels misjudged. On ‘Many Descriptions’, ‘Classify’ and ‘Longest Escalator In The World’ Lindsay’s fey vocals are a little too mannered to fully engage, clumsily jarring with the clean-lines of the band’s precise electronica.
Sometimes it’s better to stick to what you know best and the tracks that fill out the rest of the album feel more cohesive when they revert back to their freeform post-rock/ambient roots. The excellent ‘Down In The Traffic’ has an intro that owes much to the Doctor Who theme and ‘Baritone’ sounds like a more understated Mogwai. The latter half of the album serves as a contrast to what has gone before, where the band – brothers Robert and Ronald Lippock and Stefan Schneider – musically break free and let loose with some startling, but not always successful, results.
Instrument may not be their finest work – you might have to look back as far as Hotel Morgen from 2004 to experience them at the very top of their game – but there is still enough innovation and intriguing electronic asides here to make it worthy of your attention. Just no vocals next time.