Sacred Bones Records
Here’s a genius movie in terms of collaboration – the perfect fit here as Soundwalk Collective (Simone Merli, Kamran Sadeghi and Stephan Carsneanski) chose the perfect subject to honour, the perfect way and the perfect person to help them realise this. Put simply: their ethereal soundtrack of field recordings, audio collage and soft snyth textures provides the soundtrack – the soundscape – for a set of recitations of poetry by Nico. The person guiding these words into place, performing them, reciting them, borrowing them to own then – if just for the fleeting moments – is Patti Smith.
Smith, a gifted poet herself of course, is also a skilled reader and interpreter. She’s covered material by other artists on recordings and in performance – and that’s in a conventional ‘song’ sense. But her understanding of words, and of how to tread carefully and treat softly, with care, with vision, the words and worlds of others, allows her to place these fragmentary recollections, these hazy, dream-like, gauzy vestiges of verse down in, on and around the line, as buzzing atmospherics dwindle and creep and lick at the sides of these song-length aural wallpapers.
Smith knows vulnerability, she knows placing and phrasing and she knows – and owns – stoicism. All of that combines here. All of that is what helps to put these spoken-word performances over. Also, thinking of Patti’s own records, the spoken-word moments (often in the context of larger, longer songs) wind up like her versions of a guitar solo – she is a virtuoso word-Smith.
So here, in tribute to Nico, but working also as a tribute to the skills of Patti Smith, Soundwalk Collective’s intuitive grasp of audio-collaging reaches a dizzying new height.
The emotion is there in the words, but it takes Smith to crack the egg. Nico’s icy, Germanic, dramatic monotone could never have put these words out in this way.
This is immersive listening, an experience to take in and take on board across several sessions as the framework alternates between chilling, haunting, ghostly ripples and proud statement-like tributes. There is really only one ‘song’ where we hear Smith singing in all her power and they are utterly mesmerising. Particularly the centrepiece that is Fearfully In Danger. Smith is almost call and response, alternating between singing and spoken-word. But several of these pieces were songs, were recorded on Nico’s solo album. They suit the new clothes.
Smith’s daughter, Jesse Paris adds treatments and acoustic instruments to the Soundwalk Collective’s wafting, drifting, coaxing world of sound-installation.
This won’t be for everyone. Which of course is reason to recommend it. I’m spellbound. Sold. Caught. Trapped. I’m utterly nowhere when I listen to this. Hanging. Suspended. Swept up in the world these artists have created. Deep in that world.