Rotor, Fünf: Wachstumsmotor

rotor funf

Released late in 2015, Fünf is the aptly-titled fifth album from Berlin heavy progressives, Rotor. It is their first record since 2010’s 4 (review here), their first for Noisolution after working with Elektrohasch since 2005’s 2 (the label also has a vinyl reissue of their 2001 self-titled out), and perhaps most pivotally, their first offering as a double-guitar four-piece, definitively marking a new era for the band. As one might expect, this results in some significant changes throughout the eight-track/42-minute LP as compares to what came before it. Rotor being a group whose sound has always been based on what they do on stage — as they showed on the 2011 live outing, Festaal Kreuzberg (review here) — captured with a natural vibe in the studio, one doesn’t imagine adding a fourth player to their lineup after well over a decade as a trio was a decision lightly undertaken, but in the thicker rolling of “Volllast” and the interplay of fuzzy leads late in “Fette Kette,” the difference in approach is plain to hear.

Most likely that was just something Rotor wanted to be able to do live as well. Fair enough, but Fünf isn’t just about hitting harder or heavier either. Split neatly into two four-track sides, the record continues Rotor‘s proggy evolution, as heard on the airy, patient opening they give the album with “Echolot,” the drums setting the foundation at the start from which the bass and guitars build through desert rock-style grooving and into more open psychedelia by the end of the song’s seven-minute run. Lack of scope has never been an issue for Rotor, and it would seem it still isn’t, but more importantly, the band never sounds like it’s making radical, disconnected jumps from one part to another so much as following a steady, organic flow.

That holds true between the songs on Fünf as well, “Echolot” bleeding directly into the shorter “Fette Kette,” which offers thicker riffs ringing out over circular rhythm and sleek fuzz swing. The soloing in the back half already noted, the thrust which Rotor put into that part isn’t to be ignored, even as it spreads out over a half-time drum nod and finishes with due circumstance and is quickly enough gone off to the next thing. That sense of urgency in their groove is nothing new for the band, but it’s a signature element put to good use across Fünf that helps to make the record as exciting as it is immersive. Rotor never quite trip all the way out, and they never quite have, though their sound continues to be warm and engaging, so they walk a tight balance between hooking the listener and keeping attention conscious.


Third track “Scheusal” starts quietly on guitar but soon unfolds one of the album’s most progressive movements, distinctly King Crimson in its style, but less frantically technical and not departing from the spirit of Fünf overall as it showcases a winding guitar lead in its midsection. Additional thoughtful interplay follows, crashing to a close from which “Rabensol” picks up with immediately pastoral guitar. Side A’s closer will maintain a kind of wistfulness throughout its six minutes, patient, vaguely Southern, and molten in its shifts between louder and quieter stretches, building, turning and careening between before making its way out on its central figure as though nothing just happened, and that blend of complexity and overarching heft is what allows Rotor to effectively carry over progressive ideas with such a lack of sonic pretense. They’re never putting on a clinic, though clearly they probably could. They’re writing songs.

No doubt for many the groove of “Volllast” will make it an album highlight. I won’t argue. It’s a hell of a riff, and Rotor ride it well. Introduced via quiet acoustics, it explodes into full-tonal berth suddenly and never relinquishes once it takes hold, though a brighter middle stretch adds some psych flourish and late-arriving Mellotron keys add drama to the build that leads to the chugging apex, ended cold as if to say, “Okay, the set’s over, let’s have a drink.” Nowhere to go from there except into the wah bliss of “Okatagon,” shorter and more progressive but still substantially heavy by its finish, and the jazzier shuffle of “Herrengedeck,” which remind that Fünf has more going on that powerhouse riffing and straight-ahead linear builds.

Also the shortest cut at 3:02, “Herrengedeck” is especially satisfying rhythmically, showcasing the drums for a brief movement-minded course that soon leads to closer “Weltall Erde Rotor,” providing an atmospheric ending to the album that’s less sentimental perhaps than was “Rabensol,” but which gives a kind of symmetry to that song’s swing all the same in its lead after the two-minute mark and the memorable impression overall that it makes as it pushes through to its organ-topped finish. Not the first instance of keys on the record — Charlie Paschen, who also recorded, contributed. Could it be that Rotor would add a fifth after Fünf? I wouldn’t speculate. All the same their latest outing arrives after some delay but finds their stylistic evolution very much intact, and as they move further into this incarnation of the band, it seems entirely possible that evolution is beginning anew.

Rotor, “Volllast” official video

Rotor on Thee Facebooks

Rotor website


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