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 that they transcend voyeurism. The collective's diligent research and fieldwork yields 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 uses 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 and the French poet and dramatist Antonin Artaud on 2019's The Peyote Dance (both of which were collaborations with Patti Smith). Ukrainian artist Stephan Crasneanscki founded Soundwalk Collective in 2000. Working with a rotating cast of collaborators that 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 from 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 as well as 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 was 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. The trilogy's other volumes were inspired by Arthur Rimbaud and René Daumal and arrived later in 2019. ~ Heather Phares
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