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Rotifer - The Hosting Couple

  by Benjamin Howarth

published: 2 / 4 / 2012

Rotifer - The Hosting Couple
Label: AED Records
Format: CD


Unconventional, but marvellous pop on sixth album from Rotifer, the project of Austrian born, but now London-based singer-songwriter Robert Rotifer

Some albums you love instantaneously, others you have to work at. And, just occasionally, an album comes along that you know you will love if only you can hear it enough times. The first Rotifer song I heard was this album’s lead single, ‘Canvey Island’, which sounds like a bit like the Kinks, with maybe a hint of early Elvis Costello sprinkled on top. It feels like the kind of song a milkman should be whistling, except that Rotifer’s melody never quite does what you expect it too. This is what the phrase “deceptively simple” was made for – a song that sounds like a classic pop, yet one that actually takes several listens for your brain to solve. Much of ‘The Hosting Couple’, Rotifer’s sixth album but his first to be released on a British label, pulls off the same trick. A kind of classic pop – and yet wholly unconventional. Of course, you keep on playing it, and soon you realise that you’re onto something special: wonderful hooks, droll lyrics, sharp arrangements and knowing-nods to all sorts of great music from the past. And, at only thirty-three minutes, short enough that you flip straight back to the start when it ends. Born in Austria, Robert Rotifer first came to England as a twelve year-old, alongside his fifteen year old sister. He spent the summer staying with a hosting couple (who give this album its title) in Canvey Island. Rotifer’s eye for small details was clearly sharp even then. His affectionate tale of that summer is full of lovely turns of phrase – “a white sock summer” when “too many maltesers wreak hell on your complexion.” Well known in his homeland, Rotifer has actually lived in England for more than a decade. Without being told he was Austrian, I doubt you’d recognise his singing voice as coming from anywhere other than London’s outer suburbs. Just as he’d probably given up being anything other than a cult act in Britain, he was contacted by Grace Maxwell, Edwyn Collins’ wife and manager, who made Rotifer one of the first band’s to be signed to the couple’s new label. Another couple, Wreckless Eric and his wife Amy, hosted Rotifer at their home in Paris as this album was recorded. Aside from ‘Canvey Island’, other highlights include opening track ‘The Drone’, a wry look at the end-of-the-world; ‘Aberdeen Marine Lab’, a song about fish ‘n’ chips and marine biology, and ‘Mr Extra Item Seat’, the best kind of passenger you could meet, which has vocals from Rotifer’s moonlighting bassist Darren Hayman. One slight disappointment is the penultimate track, a short instrumental. It appears to be building into something special, before it abruptly stops after just 41 seconds. Hopefully, Rotifer will see sense and finish that one off in time for his next album. That aside, ‘The Hosting Couple’ is consistently marvellous.

Track Listing:-
1 The Drone
2 Jazz Cigarettes
3 Aberdeen Marine Lab
4 Canvey Island
5 Ernst Jandl at the Albert Hall
6 Art for the Spare Room
7 Mr Extra Item Seat
8 Bag Drop
9 Way of the World
10 Creosote Summer
11 Now That I'm Gone
12 Father's Name Is Dad

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Interview (2013)
Rotifer - Interview
Ben Howarth chats to Austrian-born singer-songwriter and music journalist Robert Rotifer about his indie pop trio Rotifer's forthcoming second UK album, the politically abrasive 'The Cavalry Never Showed Up', which is being released on Gare du Nord, a new label collective
Interview Part 1 (2012)
Interview Part 2 (2012)

live reviews

Rotifer, John Howard and Mel Mayr - Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 26/11/2014
Rotifer - Rotifer, John Howard and Mel Mayr - Servant Jazz Quarters, London, 26/11/2014
In the second of two showcases from record label and collective Gare du Nord, Ben Howarth at the Servant Jazz Quarters in London enjoys sets from indie trio Rotifer, rediscovered 70's singer-songwriter John Howard and Austrian singer-songwriter Mel Mayr who was playing her first British gig

digital downloads



The Cavalry Never Showed Up (2013)
Exceptional second UK album of abrasive pop from Rotifer, the band of Austrian-born yet now Canterbury-based singer-songwriter Robert Rotifer

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