Daniel Kötter/Hannes Seidl - Stadt [Land Fluss]: A radio play [Gruenrekorder - 2021]
Here’s a rather odd package from Gruenrekorder, which consists of a printed piece of cardboard with a CD attached to the reverse, and a booklet held on with a rubber band - it's unclear if this is conceptual or just pragmatic and somewhat ugly. The CD contains one long 42-minute track, ‘Stadt [Land Fluss],’ based on the music theatre piece of the same name by Daniel Kötter and Hannes Seidl, whilst the booklet compiles text from the piece and photographs from a performance of it.
‘Stadt [Land Fluss]’ explores issues of urban space, urban planning, architectural design, and the politics of the urban. The 42-minute track is an odd beast, equal parts engaging and, frankly, less-engaging. To summarise crudely, the piece is dominated by dark drones and enigmatic micro-sounds, and pounding electroacoustic sounds and raw field recordings; there are all manner of electronic noises, the scraping of guitars, aeroplanes flying overhead, rhythmic techno-esque sections, primitive whines, and obscure tones. These are deployed across a broad, wandering landscape which is overwhelmingly murky, ominous, and low key. The central element that might be somewhat decisive in how you receive ‘Stadt [Land Fluss]’ is the use of speech samples, which illustrate and examine the themes of the release. These are scattered, if near-constant, across the 42 minutes, and transcribed in the accompanying booklet.
Shorn of the booklet, ‘Stadt [Land Fluss]’ is a pleasant, if cryptic work which does indeed sound like a radio play - simply due to the combination of voices and raw textural noises. There are moments where it sags or stalls a little, and I found it worked well as background ambience - which I suspect is not the intention of Kötter and Seidl. Whilst it’s not remotely Dark Ambient, it does approach those atmospheres. However, the content of the speech samples, and the accompanying booklet, raise the spectre that this all ‘means something’ and something important - and indeed it does; however, the CD alone doesn’t, for me at least, convincingly elaborate on the urban themes of the release - and the transcription in the booklet doesn’t reference the authors quoted, nor point to further reading. So the polemical and ideological aspects of the project don’t fully hit home, but it does begin the mind thinking on an increasingly urgent area of modern life.Martin P