To Rococo Rot Hotel Morgen

[Domino; 2004]

Rating: 2.5/5

Styles: electro, post-rock, minimalist groove
Others: Tortoise, Microstoria, Isotope 217, Savath & Savalas

Unlike the murkier, dub-like rhythms and textures of their 2001 release with I-Sound (Music is a Hungry Ghost), Hotel Morgen spends most of its time with crisp, light, low-key post-rock noodlings, much like those on Tortoise's most recent album, It's All Around You. To be perfectly blunt, plopping the CD in my player, I'm fairly nonplused until track four's harkening to the inviting deep-sea ambiance of the previous LP. I'm willing to hold out, hoping that the group will break out of its sedate, economically banal, meditative melodic clusters. The simplistic one to two word titles betray the record's crisp simplicity. A close but slightly more rich and distinctive cousin to Hotel Morgen could be Bexar Bexar's equally abbreviated low-key groovers on Haralambos.

The trick with these kinds of reviews is not to steer away people solely on the commonplace (right down to the wistful vibraphone on "Sol") aesthetic of the album. Despite To Rococo Rot's placid rejection of any exceptionally radical artistic statement, there is a grace and deft care taken on the record not to buoy the stately jams with textural shifts, but to interlock the two in an elegant way that's impressive to the discerning listener. Nevertheless, this is a somewhat uninspiring recording.

At best, it could be the incidental music of a corporate documentary (or an older David Cronenberg film, oddly enough). It plays to one's motorik and old-school techno sensibilities to some degree, but leaves you cold with its limited emotional palette. It can become something akin to a yuppie trying to become a piece of art by leaning in an opposing angle to his necktie.

I'd recommend Hotel Morgen for anyone who just can't get enough of Tortoise-tinged, semi-ambient music. I think I've had my fill, though. A fairly unrewarding exercise in fish tank jet precision. Actually "Non Song" (a strictly ambient track) feels very much like when you get hypnotized by one of those fish tank jets. All in all, these non-songs are elegant enough to be worth a listen, but bland enough to be decidedly inessential.

1. Dahlem
2. Cosimo
3. Tal
4. Feld
5. Portrait Song
6. Sol
7. Plong
8. Miss You
9. Basic
10. Venus
11. Non Song
12. Ovo
13. Bologna
14. Opak