The Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith: The Peyote Dance (Bella Union) - Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith

The Peyote Dance

Bella Union

Jul 29, 2019 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

There’s really not that much love shown for poetry in our increasingly anti-intellectual culture; so seeing that Bella Union have committed to a three album series of works from The Soundwalk Collective, each in turn paying homage to Arthur Rimbaud, Antonin Artaud, and Rene Daumal, is something of a delight.

This first record (recorded with Patti Smith) embeds itself in the world of Artaud’s 1936 book, The Peyote Dance, which depicted his journey to Mexico City and encounters with Ramauri Indians and the Peyote shamans of Tarahumara—an otherworldly experience that left Artaud forever changed.

Soundwalk have gone full method here—visiting Mexico, banging a load of peyote, recording where Artaud once walked, and using indigenous instruments to create their evocative soundscapes. It’s what we used to codify as a “headphones record” for sure—but there’s something impressive here even for those who shy away from this level of pretension/invention (delete as applicable).

Raw, visceral, and visionary, like the author himself, it’s a long, sometimes bewildering record—huge swathes of lyric a barrage of sexual, brutalist imagery and mind-melting repetition and word-echoing. Yet it has a powerful cumulative effect—particularly when Smith chooses to sing rather than chant and recite as on the genuinely gorgeous “The New Revelations of Being” (I know, I know) and when the trip turns very, very bad on the 10 minute+ “Alienation and Black Magic” (I said “I know!”)

For all the interest Soundwalk’s musical choices engender, the most powerful moments are found sounds—the rush of the wind across the plains; footsteps in the red dirt. The production here is impeccable, apt, and impressive—speaker shifts and alterations in depth enhance the enveloping experience no end, and one is left partly exhausted, a little bewildered, perhaps unsettled.

It’s a well conceived record that rightly celebrates a master—yet with a master of their own on board in the shape of the iconic Smith an homage becomes a living, strange treasure chest of transcendence. (

Author rating: 7.5/10

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July 20th 2020

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