A rotating crew of sonic nomads helmed by Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli, Soundwalk Collective travels the globe to create abstract impressions of places and people -- and how places and people interact -- that are so immersive they transcend voyeurism. The collective's diligent research and fieldwork yield environmental recordings and found sounds that they transform into collages augmented by vocals and instrumentation that add depth to the sonic worlds they create. As specific as their process is, Soundwalk Collective use it to capture a wide array of subjects. Their first recorded piece, 2008's Kill the Ego, presented New York City's quintessential sounds -- traffic, the subway, jazz, beat poetry, hip-hop -- in shifting, hypnotic layers. Later, they depicted regions as disparate as the Mediterranean Sea and the Rub 'al Khali desert with equal care and creativity. In the 2010s, the collective expanded their horizons with projects such as 2014's Last Beat, which used the vibrations and resonances of the Moscow club Arma17 as its source material, and 2016's Jungle-ized, an installation that contrasted the urban jungle of Times Square with the sounds of the Amazon rainforest. Later in the decade, Soundwalk Collective added audio portraits of individuals to their repertoire. They commemorated Nico on 2016's Killer Road with Patti Smith and Jesse Paris Smith. Three years later, they issued the first two albums in their loose conceptual trilogy "The Perfect Vision," all with Patti Smith as their principal collaborator. The first entry, The Peyote Dance, appeared in May. It paid homage to and explored the works of, French poet and dramatist Antonin Artaud. In November they issued the second chapter, Mummer Love, which paid homage to poet and nomad Arthur Rimbaud. Its other name contributors included Philip Glass, Mulatu Astatke, Smith, and the Sufi Group of Sheikh Ibrahim. Ukrainian artist Stephan Crasneanscki founded Soundwalk Collective in 2000. Working with a rotating cast of collaborators who included Dug Winningham and Kamran Sadeghi, Crasneanscki used state-of-the-art recording gear and techniques to capture the environments and native instruments of various locales around the world. For their live performances, the collective used a bank of turntables with custom-cut records of their own samples as well as tape machines and laptops. In 2008, Simone Merli joined Crasneanscki as Soundwalk Collective's other main member. That year, they also issued their first recording, Kill the Ego. A joint project with Korean filmmaker/painter Rostarr (aka Romon Kimin Yang), it captured the artists' impressionistic portrait of New York City and was released as a limited-edition DVD. Soundwalk Collective then ventured to the Mediterranean for a pair of 2009 works: La Brûlure was fashioned from recordings of the region's coastlines, while Ulysses Syndrome's source materials came from the Mediterranean Sea. Crasneanscki, Merli, and company traveled to a completely different terrain for 2010's Empty Quarter. Employing sounds from the Rub 'al Khali (the world's largest contiguous sand desert), it was issued as a limited-edition LP and CD. The following year saw the release of Medea, which was composed from field recordings and radio interceptions the collective gathered on a two-month boat trip on the coasts of the Black Sea. In 2014, Soundwalk Collective released a pair of recordings that reflected the range of their work. Last Beat sampled two years' worth of recordings of the vibrations of the building of Arma17, a house and techno-oriented club in Moscow, effectively turning the club itself into a musical instrument. Meanwhile, Sounds of the Wind drew on music and field recordings of the Roma people situated over the length of the Danube River. That year, Crasneanscki met Patti Smith in a Paris airport; after the pair hit it off, Smith became one of Soundwalk Collective's major creative partners. Their first collaboration was Killer Road, which paid tribute to musician and Velvet Underground associate Nico as it chronicled her final days in Ibiza. Featuring the sounds of the island as well as poetry and vocals by Smith and her daughter Jesse Paris Smith, Soundwalk Collective staged Killer Road in New York City and Berlin in 2014. Two years later, they released it as an album that combined live and studio recordings. The collective's other projects during this time included Jungle-ized, a large-scale installation that played the sounds of the Amazon rainforest in an eight-block section of New York's Times Square, and Khandroma, an installation for New York's Rubin Museum of Art that combined the sounds and music of the Himalayan Mountains; Oversampling Records released it as a limited-edition LP in 2016. In 2017, Soundwalk Collective issued Before Music There Is Blood, on which Crasneanscki and Merli recombined recordings of students practicing at prestigious conservatories in China, Italy, and Russia (the album also included a remix by Max Loderbauer). That year also saw the release of the four-disc Transmissions, which collected some of Soundwalk Collective's earliest releases as well as Bessarabia, which was crafted from recordings of Holocaust survivors along with field recordings of the region. On 2018's Death Must Die, a piece that Crasneanscki began work on in 2004 and was broadcast by New York's PS1 Radio, the collective took a more musical approach to the composition and its source material from the sacred Indian city of Varansi. On that year's What We Leave Behind: Jean-Luc Godard Archives, Soundwalk Collective fashioned a collage from the director's personal archive. The album and an EP of remixes by Ricardo Villalobos, Jan Jelinek, and Petre Inspirescu arrived 50 years after Godard stood with protesting workers and students at the 1968 Cannes Film Festival. The collective's other projects that year included the award-winning radio production Illuminations and the score to German choreographer Sasha Waltz's production Kreatur, which featured sounds sourced from European factories and a former Stasi prison. Soundwalk Collective were also prolific in 2019. Oscillation appeared that April. The soundtrack to their installation of the same name at Philharmonie de Paris, it combined recordings of the Berlin club Berghain as well as custom-made instruments. In May, the collective reunited with Smith for The Peyote Dance, the first installment in a trilogy of albums paying homage to French poets. Inspired by Antonin Artaud's book of the same name, The Peyote Dance explored the poet's time with the Rarámuri, an indigenous people of Mexico's Sierra Tarahumara region. Mummer Love was issued just six months later. The second part of "The Perfect Vision" trilogy, it offered tribute to 19th century poet, Arthur Rimbaud (a primary influence on Smith) through a sonic exploration of the mystic Sufi Islam concept of purposefully losing the "self" (as defined by Western thought) in pursuit of consciously inhabiting the eternal. Soundwalk Collective also recruited composer and pianist Philip Glass, vibraphonist and Ethio-jazz creator Mulatu Astatke, and the vocal group Sufi Group of Sheikh Ibrahim. The final volume in the "Perfect Vision" trilogy with Smith was 2020's Peradam. Released in September, its object of homage was French para-surrealist writer, critic, and poet René Daumal, best known for the unfinished, posthumously published novel Mount Analogue. Crasneanscki and Merli traveled to Nanda Devi in the Himalayas, Rishikesh, Varanasi, and the Kingdom of Lo (Upper Mustang) to channel and translate Daumal’s metaphysical quest through sound. In addition to primary collaborator Smith, the group enlisted sitarist Anoushka Shankar, vocalist Charlotte Gainsbourg, percussionist/vocalist Tenzin Choegyal, and the field-recorded voice of sherpa Dhan Singh Rana.
© Heather Phares /TiVo
© Heather Phares /TiVo
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Alternative & Indie - Released September 4, 2020 | Bella Union
Peradam concludes the "Perfect Vision" trilogy of collaborative albums between musical psychogeographers Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith. All are sonic inquiries into the exploratory travels of three French writers and contain field recordings from the places these writers sojourned. The first two, Peyote Dance and Mummer Love, were issued in 2019. The former was inspired by poet, dramatist, and actor Antonin Artaud's travels to Sierra Tarahumara, Mexico, where he observed and partook of the indigenous people's spiritual rituals. The latter took poet Arthur Rimbaud's sojourn in Harar, Ethiopia as its muse. In each case, the Soundwalk Collective's Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli traveled to these locales and recorded the world around them. They brought their field-recorded, studio-manipulated sounds to Smith, who added intuitive readings of their works, imparting the illuminating experiences reflected in their texts, all inside a native universe of sound. Peradam draws on the writings of literary and psychic traveler Rene Daumal, in particular his unfinished and influential novel Mount Analogue. Daumal traveled to India in a search of the "peradam," his conception of a rare, crystalline stone that harbors profound truths, and is only visible to true spiritual seekers. The novel's text in both French (delivered by Charlotte Gainsbourg) and English translations, is utilized here. Soundwalk Collective traced Daumal's steps through his travels to the Nanda Devi in the Himalayas, Rishikesh, Varanasi, and the secluded Kingdom of Lo (Upper Mustang) to channel his metaphysical quest. "Nanda Devi" commences with the ever-present roaring wind across the Himalayan slopes. Sherpa Dhan Singh Rana chants an invocation to the bliss-giving goddess of the mountain in Hindi. On "Peradam," Smith reads excerpts from Daumal's G.I. Gurdjieff-influenced texts and translations from the Sanskrit over the sounds of Tibetan damaru, sampled beats, bells, gongs, and vocal chants. She intones that she will not speak of the mountain before the journey makes her one with its deity. "Knowledge of the Self" is introduced with night sounds and Anoushka Shankar's sitar; it hovers above the environmental sounds before Smith unfolds Daumal's cautionary instructions for the spiritual journey. The scattershot percussion and nearly imperceptible drones in "Spiritual Death" allow her room to expose the beginner's mind to frustrating yet ultimately instructive eternal truths. In "The Four Cardinal Times," Gainsbourg whispers a text cyclically in French before Smith reads another in English. Their cadences are staggered amid night sounds, harmonium, and ambient drones and are eventually combined with incantatory power. Sounds here are primarily ambient and unintrusive; they border on becoming boring, but don't succumb. They insinuate meaning and illuminate Smith's interpretive, rhythmic readings; they frame both her voice and its annunciations, which are layered with hidden meanings. While some may find the two earlier volumes more satisfying due to more dramatic presentations, the "Perfect Vision" trilogy needed Peradam's gentler, decidedly more exploratory texts of a dangerous spiritual quest and discovery to come full-circle. Framed by field-recorded eloquence, Smith's voice delivers on that potential. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
Electronic - Released May 9, 2020 | Song Cycle
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