On their self-titled EP Rococo, Rococo establish vast and cavernous spaces, promptly populating them with repetitive riffs, cacophonies of fuzzed out instruments as well as interwoven male/female vocal lines and harmonies. In the span of four short songs, the band builds from proto-folk to middling shoegaze, tightly wrapping songs around a prominent theme and approaching that lynchpin from multiple angles. While the package might be small, the impact and output of sound is sizable for the span.
The songs follow roughly the same formula: One prominent riff, normally swimming in natural reverb, will feel around a space in the dark, while mixed male and female vocals will join in alongside layering instruments to fill the sound out. It will rise, fall, crash and often go silent for a moment before reestablishing its footing and energy. The songs play out like thoughtful jam sessions, like a band testing out an idea and seeing what directions they can take that riff or vocal line—although here, rather than taking these notions to the extreme, Rococo knows what they want and occupy every inch of that desired space. The harmonies swirl, seldom at the forefront, while the root riffs guide the songs, applied with slight variations as the the tracks build.
While the energy level remains consistent throughout, the songs become more densely layered as the EP progresses, the reverb thicker and fuzz more liberal. “I'm Not Here” starts with a natural wood, acoustic guitar reverb, a sad-sweet violin creeping up a scale and male/female vocals edging their way in—it has every indication of easily fitting a folk or Appalachian bill. And, while it does, by the end, with just the chorus of distant voices, it fills out and promises something more. The second track carries this momentum, adding some rapid strumming to a near percussive effect, but, by the third track this short album has caught its stride. “Morning Light” has a more uniform rise and fall, as well as vocals moved just enough closer to the fore to stand out and help carry the song forward. Fairly clean electric guitar hints at the fuzz to come. The final track “It's Love!” has the fuzz of a ‘70s punk track, but maintains the album's minimalist ethos. Semi-shouted vocals mirror the noodling of the lead guitar and channel the organized chaos of early Broken Social Scene, while the male/female call and response hints towards some of the White Stripes more tongue-in-cheek tracks. After all of the building, by the end, simple, understated “ohh la la's” emerge from the soundscape.
Rococo maintains a lot of energy for a quick, minimally produced, four-song affair. The band consists of Dwellyn Conway and Schea Bowden, with the former primarily helming the self-recording and production duties. They've been playing together for a while, since a band called Loose Leaves and it shows on the record. These two capture a live vibe on this album—potentially by using almost entirely live cuts, possibly through emphasizing live distortion and reverb and eschewing post-production effects. The album feels raw, real and unrehearsed—like if you stuck these two in a studio right now with the same songs, you'd get something entirely different.
Ultimately Rococo feels like a proof of concept: There's undeniably something here, bubbling beneath the surface and occasionally spilling over. The energy, instrumentation and intent are all here—often feeling like output of more than just two people—but the album scarcely has enough time to realize its own ambition.
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