This is the second instalment in the ‘Perfect Vision’ triptych inspired by celebrated French poets; the first (The Peyote Dance) paid homage to Antonin Artaud and the third will celebrate the work of René Daumal.
‘Mummer Love’ is released to mark the anniversary of the death of Arthur Rimbaud, on 10th November 1891, and is described as ”a sonic cross-continental experience”.
Rimbaud is a writer close to Patti Smith’s heart. In ‘Just Kids’, she recalls being smitten at the age of 16 after stealing a book of his poetry from a bookstall in Philadelphia : ”Rimbaud held the keys to a mystical language that I devoured even as I could not fully decipher it. My unrequited love for him was a real to me as anything I had experienced.”
Her continuing reverence and respect shines through in readings of four of his key prose/poetry pieces. These reveal the poet as an unquiet soul. For instance, Song Of The Highest Tower expresses the writer’s disillusionment of being “without hope of greater joy” while Farewell is a journey into a private hell of fierce self analysis, regarding himself as exempt for all morality and despairing over the fact that “spiritual combat is as brutal as the battles of men”.
Soundwalk Collective’s powerful musical arrangements succeed in evoking the atmosphere of the tortured poet’s time spent in Harar, Ethiopia – an epicenter of Sufism in Africa – where he sought an escape from what he called ”western stagnation”.
The drama of Smith’s passionate spoken word readings is enhanced by a background throb of ethnic minimalism, tribal chanting and field recordings from the holy city itself; Eternity is a particularly dynamic example of this.
This effect is in no small part thanks to contributions from Mulatu Astatke, widely considered the father of Ethio-jazz, and esteemed composer /pianist Phillip Glass, who has long felt an affinity with Sufi music. In addition, hypnotic chants and pulsating rhythms come from the Sufi group of Sheikh Ibrahim.
Of the musical process at the heart of the project, Soundwalk Collective’s founder Stephan Crasneanscki states: “You obtain connections to other levels of yourself and consciousness.”
One of best examples of this comes in a ten minute instrumental piece, La Maison de Rimbaud, which conjures up an eerie ambience through piano and field recordings of indistinct murmuring voices.
But the most memorable piece is Mummer Love, the title track. This is built around a poem composed by Smith in which she imagines herself entering the very body and soul of Rimbaud walking the same roads, boarding the same trains or ships and even pissing in the same urinal! Tears and rain are among the recurring motifs in feverish lines culminating by provocatively drawing a parallel between urine with holy water.
The track is the highlight of what is the sound collective’s finest work to date. Although this will be a hard act to follow, it raises high expectations for the final part of the triptych.