'Naima' by Vladislav Delay, 'Kolner brett' by To Roccoco Rot
by Ian Simmons
[ cdreviews ]
Both these CDs are, to an extent, site-specific. The Vladislav Delay piece is an edit of material he used to transform a park by the Danube for the Klangpark sessions of the Ars Electronica Festival in 2001. This material, in turn, was a re-working of recordings for his earlier studio album, Anima. To Rococco Rot, on the other hand, produced their music for Archilab, an architectural exhibition held in Orleans, also in 2001. This is described as "a musical translation" of the Kolner Brett building in Cologne, designed in 2000 by architects b&k+ to blend living and working space in one unit.
Site specific works such as these are a mixed proposition when it comes to releasing them as an independent CD: often they make little sense without the accompanying location, and any structural weaknesses are ruthlessly exposed. It is also the case that the success of a piece as a CD is often inversely proportional to its success as an on site piece. With these two, it is certainly true. While both stand up well as CDs in their own right, it is clear that Vladislav Delay's piece has a strong relationship to the site for which it was intended. It consists largely of a female voice, speaking in German-accented English about culture, art, music and creativity, cut up and looped, backed by a gentle, abstract soundscape of hums, buzzes, sighs and even the faintest hint of rhythm. I suspect frequent playing would render to spoken part of the work slightly annoying, but you can picture the effect this might have as you walked through work soundscaped into a park, satisfying and slightly eerie.
To Roccoco Rot, on the other hand have produced a piece which is supposed to reflect upon a building, rather than be played in it. However, as far as I can see, the main relationship the music has to the structure is that it is divided up into 12 sections, equivalent to the building's 12 spaces. Mind you, looking at the structure in the CD booklet, I have to say it looks dull and faintly scruffy, so perhaps not the most musically-inspiring building out. The music itself is the kind of spare elegant electronica we have come to expect from To Roccoco Rot, and has been spending a lot of time in my CD player. It is spacious and austere, but with an intrinsic warmth that makes it a pleasure to listen to. While this evokes architectural space far less successfully than, say, David Toop's Museum of Fruit or some of the other architecture-related projects released by Capriania, it is the more successful of the two as a stand-alone CD.