Following up 2019’s The Peyote Dance and Mummer Love, Soundwalk Collective maintains its experimental sound to accompany the methodical poetic writings of Patti Smith on Peradam, the third entry in a series of joint-effort albums.
The artist cite literary inspiration from René Daumal’s book “Mount Analogue: A Novel of Symbolically Authentic Non-Euclidean Adventures in Mountain Climbing.” While a surface reading of the 1952 novel seems to serve as a metaphor for internal exploration of the self as a constructive way of determining one’s own potential; Smith and Soundwalk Collective can’t seem to help themselves using this as an opportunity to wax pseudo-intellectualisms unprovoked toward their audience.
Esoteric subject matter aside, many of the songs are barren soundscapes with little in the way of any interesting melody or instrumentation to grab the listener’s attention, paired with the rambling stream-of-consciousness spoken-word pieces that are irksome to follow.
While there is nothing wrong with discussing esoteric or complex subject matter, the single fatal flaw to works such as this is to patronize the audience with self-assured epiphanies about the nature of humanity. Sweeping generalizations and assertions that paint such a negative view of those around you can come across disingenuous. Perhaps Smith’s spoken-word pieces would hold more impact in a written format, considering her status as a successful author on top of her distinguished music career.
Further compounding the problems with the album is that it’s a boring listen. Several songs feature sparse instrumentation and even occasionally retread ground from previous songs. Even the ambient elements are disinteresting at best, especially considering the more sophisticated and complex clashing of sounds from other recent ambient records like Nicholas Jaar’s Telas. There is even one track that is merely the sounds of birds chirping, with the occasional interjection of a conch shell and some bells. The instrumentation is so far back in the mix that you can consider this more of a poetry album than one of music.
Songs like “Hymn To The Liquid,” “Knowledge Of The Self” and “Vera” each stick to a single set of sounds, such as sitar or bells accompanied by a monotonous delivery of their respective spoken word. The title track, “Spiritual Death” and “The Four Cardinal Times”—which features a guest appearance from French actor and singer-songwriter Charlotte Gainsbourg—appear to be somewhat more ambitious. Yet the latter two similarly open with naturalistic sounds, like the chopping of wood or crickets, before transitioning to similar extended synthetic tones reminiscent of a John Carpenter film score. The closing song, “The Rat,” is easily the best of the bunch, but that isn’t saying much. It’s the only song on the album to offer a dynamic melody, with a unique synthetic and organic instrumentation alongside the only singing performance by Smith.
The album will certainly be another installment of Smith’s discography that will peak the interest of her fans. As far as the average listener is concerned, Peradam just isn’t that accessible. It caters to a métier that will scratch the itch of those with a more avant-garde predilection.
Follow editor Tim Hoffman at Twitter.com/hipsterp0tamus.