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A sonic cross-continental experience, Mummer Love is the second album in the Perfect Vision triptych collaboration between Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith. For this body of work, Soundwalk Collective journeyed to Africa to explore the intricacies of Arthur Rimbaud’s most obscure period. After leaving France and what he deemed the ‘western stagnation’, Rimbaud found himself in Harar, Ethiopia – an epicenter of Sufism in Africa. Sufi practise focuses on the renunciation of worldly things, the purification of the soul and the mystical contemplation of God’s nature. A strand within the wider Islam religion, it focuses on spirituality, meditation and chanting sessions. Sufi music is about reaching a communal ecstatic state, and once you find yourself there, you are granted access to the unknown. Stephan Crasneanscki from Soundwalk Collective spent time with the Sufi masters in Harar to record their music and chants in the shrine, of which he says: “You obtain connections to other levels of yourself and consciousness. This connection, like poetry, is a universal language. A language of the soul, for the soul.”
As with the other albums in the triptych, the Collective searched for hidden, earthy sounds that hold memories and embed existence. For Mummer Love, they also found themselves recording under the tree where Rimbaud photographed the shrine of Sheik Abadir Umar ar-Rida al Harari, the founder of the holy city Harar. “As the rain fell, I wondered if I was hearing the drops hitting the leaves the same way Rimbaud did 140 years ago,” Crasneanscki says. These sounds and Sufi chants are juxtaposed with Patti Smith’s poems, like the title track Mummer Love. Written to Rimbaud, Smith’s words are rooted in multiple aspects of the self: from the passion of a lover to the care of a mother, and everything in between. Further contributions to the album come from Mulatu Astatke, widely considered the father of Ethio-jazz, and Phillip Glass, who’s long felt a connection to Sufi music – here coming together and evoking a call and response between piano and vocals of the Sufi masters. It is simultaneously the first time Glass collaborates with Smith, and so Harar becomes an extraordinary meeting place for all to celebrate the beauty of Rimbaud’s work.
Referring to the overall work, Smith likens the project to a fourth mind equation. “Because we are working with other people’s work, and not just reading it but channelling these people, they become a fourth mind. We are Rimbaud, you, I, and the work,” Smith says in conversation with Crasneanscki. The unification of all minds together magnifies its power and potential. “It makes me think of Rimbaud’s energy, his strong will,” Smith says. “If we, the living, send out radio and energy waves, the energy of those last poems is still reverberating. It can’t be silenced, because we understand that this work and the artists are not dead, they find life when we are recording them.”
Entitled The Perfect Vision, this musical triptych aims to go beyond 20/20 vision and explore a dimension that exists on a non-physical plane. What one can physically see is only the beginning – this project transcends what we think we see, by multiplying experiences, languages and energies. “We went through places like Mexico, Ethiopia and India to search for a perfect vision, in spaces where you can still feel a sacred presence – where the Gods are still among you,” says Crasneanscki. “In this idea of perfect vision, there is the idea of oneness, and with that comes a sense of supreme love.”
Mummer Love will be released 8th November, to mark the anniversary of the death of Arthur Rimbaud, on 10th November (1891).
Critical acclaim for The Peyote Dance, the previous album from Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith:
“An enfolding, transcendent work of aural theatre tracking Antonin Artaud’s journey.” MOJO – 4 stars ****
“The field recordings Soundwalk Collective pull together offer a supple ground for Smith’s recitals.” Uncut – 7/10
“The Peyote Dance is intense and esoteric… A thrilling sonic voyage into the interior.” The i Paper – Album of the Week
“Patti Smith is the perfect frontwoman for these mesmerising soundscapes bringing alive Artaud’s book inspired by a psychedelic shamanic ritual in Mexico. The words are ferocious, with Patti’s prowess adding to their bite.” The Mirror – 4 stars ****
“Transporting… Smith sounds unusually delicate on Ivry, an ode to Artaud’s final days.” The Times – 4 stars ****
“Nobody recites words quite like Patti Smith. The sheer relish she takes in diction, infusing every syllable with serenity or savagery. She’s as charismatic as ever on The Peyote Dance, delivering texts written/inspired by French poet Antonin Artaud.” PROG
“A collaboration between the sonic pioneers and the high priestess of punk, by turns gripping and disturbing.” The Sun – 4 stars ****