Happy release day to Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith

Happy release day to Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith. Their mesmerising Antonin Artaud inspired album ‘The Peyote Dance’ is out now on Bella Union and we are so delighted to share it’s beauty with you all.

The sound of walking in a Mexican canyon transforms into the distinct beat of the heart, distant chants, sticks, stones, and the whistle of blowing wind: The Peyote Dance, a new album by Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith, is a soundtrack of elements that invites us to explore a sacred space. The album takes as its starting point Antonin Artaud’s book The Peyote Dance, a work inspired by his revelatory experiences with the Rarámuri in 1936.

It is the first in a triptych of albums to be released by Bella Union over the next year titled The Perfect Vision, which take their inspiration from the writings of three emblematic French poets: Antonin Artaud, Arthur Rimbaud and René Daumal, and their necessity to travel to different lands to acquire a new vision and perspective on themselves and artworks. Perhaps a perfect vision, it is one that allowed them to transcend forms and borders, both physical and mental. Recorded in the Sierra Tarahumara of Mexico, Abyssinian valley of Ethiopia, and Himalayan Summit of India respectively, the central idea is that each landscape holds sleeping memories that are the witness of human passage. Each album retraces the poets’ footsteps, channelled through on-location recorded soundscapes and musicalities, with Patti Smith revisiting the words that have been inspired by the landscapes. The triptych marks a new chapter in the collaboration between Soundwalk Collective (Stephan Crasneanscki and Simone Merli) and Patti Smith, who first worked together on Killer Road in 2016.

The Peyote Dance focuses on a brief part of Artaud’s time, who travelled to Mexico City in early 1936 to deliver a series of lectures at the University of Mexico on topics including Surrealism, Marxism and theatre. In the summer, he travelled by train towards the Chihuahua region, and saddled by horse to the Tarahumara mountains with the help of a mestizo guide – which the album’s opening track, recited by Gael Garcia Bernal, evokes. Artaud was drawn to the story of the Rarámuri: Native Indian people who live in the Norogachi region of Mexico’s Copper Canyon, the Sierra Tarahumara. One of Artaud’s goals was to find a peyote shaman who could heal him; allowing him to recover from an opioid addiction. During his stay, encountering the Rarámuri Indians and peyote shamans of Tarahumara, and engaging in ceremonies, Artaud had a transcendental experience which resulted in the book The Peyote Dance. For the eponymous album, Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith revisited writings from the book, and others texts written after Artaud’s return to France, where he remained in a mental asylum in Rodez undergoing electric shock therapy. During this dark period, the encounter with the Rarámuri stayed with him as his last significant, happy experience. The penultimate track on the album is a poem written by Patti Smith in homage to Artaud’s last hours in Ivry.

The album’s sonic method originates in the idea of following Artaud’s trace and returning to the village and cave where he lived. Gathering stones, sand, leaves, and many instruments such as violins and drums that the Rarámuri made themselves, the artists were able to awaken the landscape’s sleeping memories and uncover the space’s sonic grammar. Hearing the wind blowing through the valley, or entering a cave, one will find a specific silence or resonance. “Taking peyote in those regions, you have the feeling that everything is communicating with you as it was for Artaud – nothing has changed,” says Stéphan Crasneanscki, the founder of Soundwalk Collective who travelled to the Sierra Tarahumara to record on-site. “On an atomic level, there is no separation between you and any other organism: trees, leaves, flowers, but also stones and sand. There is no duality. Everything is embedded, everything has a soul, and the soul is timeless. We are not alone. These sonic spaces are pre-existing to us and will exist after us, to be able to listen to them is an act of presence.”

Listening, reading and improvising to the tracks in the New York studio allowed Smith to channel Artaud’s spirit. “The poets enter the bloodstream, they enter the cells. For a moment, one is Artaud,” Smith says of becoming a conduit for the poet to speak through her, echoing the raw energy of the early punk scene. “You can’t ask for it, you can’t buy it, you can’t take drugs for it to be authentic. It just has to happen, you have to be chosen as well as choose.” The energy of his last poems reverberates and cannot be silenced, Smith says of The Peyote Dance. “We understand that this work and the artist are not dead, they find life in recording them.” The enduring power of Artaud’s text lies in its uncomfortable nature: 80 years after it has been written, it remains a disturbing, raw, explosive and trance-like chronicle of what it is to be alive.

Penelope Isles debut ‘Leipzig’

Today the Brighton, UK-based quartet Penelope Isles, led by brother and sister Jack and Lily Wolter, have released “Leipzig” from their forthcoming debut album Until the Tide Creeps In, due out  July 12th on Bella Union. Stereogum premiered the video, saying: “Much like the other songs from this album, there’s a youthful, frolicking feel to the vocals that additionally serves to sweeten the top-line melody.

Jack and Lily Wolter had this to say about the video:

We filmed the video in Berlin, Munich, Hannover, Diest and Luxembourg whilst on tour in Europe last year. We would constantly be on the lookout for perfect spots along the way and would keep our jeans and white t shirts folded up in a pile in the van ready to go. It’s funny that we actually forgot to shoot anything whilst in Leipzig! Although the shot of of J Sow playing drums in the woods looks very picturesque, we were actually all surrounded by German truck driver’s roadside turds! We had a laugh making the video and were all very impressed by Becky’s moves on the bridge in Munich! Germany is one of our favourite places to tour and it feels lovely to have these places within our music video. 

Early praise for Penelope Isles…

“Sweltering guitars scorch the earth [on ‘Chlorine’]… While summery synths and keys frolic in spaces left between the drum line and spiraling vocals, the riff phrases communicate nearly as much warmth and meaning as the lyrics do.” – Stereogum

“There is a grandeur to their songs, big and swelling, ebbs and flows…The whole band is seriously talented, and…seriously rock, too.” – Brooklyn Vegan

“Choppy guitar and thumping percussion combine to create a markedly DIY aesthetic throughout the video’s three minutes and five seconds of scrapbooked collage visuals. Said DIY aesthetic, both sonically as well as visually, operates as a self-aware style, one that brings an element of dirty garage rock to the haze of dream-pop flushes.” – Paste

“…a dreamy but biting piece of guitar pop…soaring, pastoral, highly intelligent songwriting.” – Clash Music

Formed around the chemistry between siblings and dual songwriters Jack and Lily Wolter, Until the Tide Creeps Inis an album deepened by shared experience. Born in Devon and raised on the Isle of Man, the Wolters’ bonds were strengthened by separation when Jack moved away to study art at university at 19, when Lily was 13. As he puts it, wryly, “By the time I moved home Lily was not so much of an annoying younger sister anymore and had grown up and started playing in bands and writing songs. We soon became very close. I had written some songs, so we started a band called Your Gold Teeth. We toured a bit and then Lily left for Brighton to study songwriting. A couple of years later I moved down and we started Penelope Isles together.” For every sibling band forged in rivalry, many others mount an unassailable genetic argument for keeping the music in the family. The latter is assuredly the case with Penelope Isles, a quartet completed by Jack Sowton and Becky Redford.

Crisp and woozy, blissful and biting, Until the Tide Creeps In is an album deepened by shared experience: experiences of, in Jack’s words, “leaving home, moving away, dealing with transitions in life and growing up. We are six years apart, so we had a different experience of some of this, but we share a similar inspiration when writing music.”

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Jambinai share ‘Sun.Tears.Red’

With the release of their new album ONDA less than two weeks away, Jambinai have debuted yet another enthralling single, titled ‘Sun.Tears.Red’, showcasing their extra-ordinary fusion of metal, post-rock and noise. Of the track, band spokesperson Lee Il-woo explains that, “Most people expect Asian traditional music to make something smooth for yoga or meditation. We wanted to break all of that.”

Early acclaim for Jambinai’s upcoming new album ONDA

“A triumph… Countless bands can switch from quiet to loud effectively; few do it with such overwhelming power as Jambinai.” MOJO – 4 stars ****

“Fusing traditional Korean music with post–rock, ONDA is their heaviest yet… ’Sawtooth’ starts as an ambient wash of dulcimers and oboes that mutates into a piece of grindcore, while ‘Sun.Tears.Red’ is a riot of overlapping zithers and post–punk beats… Clever and thrilling in equal measure.” Uncut – 8/10

“With soaring melody lines, ONDA is a seismic return… Especially striking is Sun Tears Red. Culminating in a cascade of bittersweet, melancholy arpeggios, wailing haegeum, pounding geomungo and screaming vocals that wash over like ocean waves, it’s one of Jambinai’s most emotive tracks to date.” Record Collector – 4 stars ****

Jambinai have announced a number of international festival appearances and headline shows, with further dates to be added soon. Tour dates + ONDA album artwork below:

31st May – Hilvarenbeek – Best Kept Secret Festival

5th June – Brussels – AB Club

6th June – London – The Garage

7th June – Porto – NOS Primavera Sound Festival

5th July – Belfort – Eurokeennes De Belfort

13th July – Monts – Festival Terres du Son

8th – 10th August – Incheon – Pentaport Rock Festival

20th September – Clonakity – Clonakilty

22nd September – Monthey – Route Du Pont Rouge

24th September – Quasimodo – Berlin

25th September – Dresden – Beatpol

26th September – Prague – Palac Akropolis

27th September – Linz – Stadtwekstratt

28th September – Kulfstein – Kultur Quartier Kulfstein

2nd October – Brighton – Green Door Store

4th October – Canterbury – University of Kent

6th October – Manchester – The Night People

7th October – Leeds – Lending Room

8th October – Birmingham – The Flapper

10th October – Arnhem – Luxor Live

11th October – Tilburg – 013

12th October – Rotterdam – Grounds

13th October – Utrecht – De Helling

16th October – Gronigen – Vera

Marissa Nadler announces Autumn EU tour

Today, Marissa Nadler is pleased to announce her upcoming EU tour for September 2019. To celebrate the announcement Nadler has shared an entrancing TOUTPARTOUT session version of ‘Poison’, filmed and performed in the Pacification Room of Ghent City Hall. Watch the video now and see full dates listed below…

14th September – Leffinge – Leffingeleuren

17th September – Luzern – Neubad

18th September – Bologna – Locomotiv

19th September – Rome – Monk

20th September – Milan – Ohibò

21st September – Zagreb – Mochvara

22nd September – Budapest – A38

24th September – Bucharest – Control Club

27th September – Vienna – Waves

28th September – Leipzig – UT Connewitz

30th September – Copenhagen – Vega

1st October – Aarhus – TAPE

Critical acclaim for For My Crimes, out now on Bella Union:

“The Boston singer–songwriter is at her most powerful yet… With a new strength to her songs, Nadler’s force has never seemed greater.” Q Magazine – 4 Stars ****

“Brooding, intimate songs about long nights of the soul, but with a thoughtfulness and lightness of touch that makes the album a calm, reassuring listen.” The Times – 4 Stars ****

“Beautifully eerie… She’s caught the openness of spirit of her early albums and added a gorgeously gothic undertow – there’s a stately beauty to songs like I Can’t Listen To Gene Clark Anymore, or the devastating intimacy of Interlocking, that’s hard–won.” Uncut – 8/10

“A record that glimmers in all it’s tenebrous ambience… A master–class in Southern Gothic.” Record Collector – 4 Stars ****

“Variously evoking the Cowboy Junkies and 4AD’s 90’s country–goths Tarnation, For My Crimes’ brooding, melancholic songs burn with tangible ardour.” MOJO

“Her best album yet… The ability to detail the minutiae of relationships with detached but recognisable emotion has distinguished the Boston–based musician over her 15–year career.” Rock’n’Reel – 5 Stars *****

“Spellbinding… For My Crimes feels inherently like a chronicle of fading love, but it’s also a potent expression of femininity.” Long Live Vinyl – 8/10

“Her melodies are captivating and her craft comes through strongly… Despite its lyrical themes of romantic suffocation and nostalgia, For My Crimes is steady and unwavering.” The WIRE

Lowly debut 12:36 film

Last month saw Danish quintet Lowly release their brilliant sophomore album Hifalutin via Bella Union, a wildly impressive and intricate collection of 14 songs that have along their way caught the ear of many a fan, including Brian Eno. With an EU tour having just been wrapped up the band have today shared a black and white film to accompany their beautiful track ‘12:36‘. Directed by Martin Masai Andersen and shot over four weekends in London, the video documents Stefani and David, a homeless couple struggling with addiction. Speaking of the video the band have shared the following statement…

Martin has created a documentary about two people finding comfort in each other. He has shown a stark and very honest look into a “day-in-the-life” of a drug addict with all the issues surrounding it, including sleeping rough and also being in a relationship.

He does it in a poetic and empathic way, not to manipulate or be sentimental about it, but just to show a real story. 

The meeting between our music and his visuals is pretty remarkable. To us the song embodies the collision between conflict and peace and identity, between the female and masculine, the fragile and soft against the hard. It’s a song about existing and being hyper sensitive about that very fact. 

Through Martin’s lens we get a view of Stefani and David’s life, but also their emotions and thoughts as well. 

We feel honored to be invited into all their worlds.”

“Lowly make lush, confident pop, layering traditional textures over less orthodox sounds, topped off with crystalline vocals.” Uncut

Lowly have created their entirely own universe of dreamy, luxurious pop.” Clash

“The best albums create their own distinctive worlds that invite the listener to be part of them and Heba is no different… It’s a remarkable debut, it doesn’t sound like anyone else, it sounds like Lowly, who are a band completely on top of their own game.” The Line Of Best Fit

“Their songs nod to the multilayered textures of Cocteau Twins, the lush experimentalism of Radiohead and Little Dragon’s dubby soundscapes. This is music to lose yourself in.” Sunday Times

“A dream–pop masterclass, daring in its vision and exexcution… Lowly have hit the heights for a second time.” The Sun

Hifalutin is out now on Bella Union.

Ezra Furman announces ‘Twelve Nudes’

Just a year and a half since the release of his critically acclaimed LP Transangelic Exodus, Ezra Furman returns with Twelve Nudes, yet another incendiary and inspiring classic from the singer/songwriter/guitarist/bandleader. The album will be released worldwide on 30th August via Bella Union and is available to pre-order here. To celebrate the release Furman has shared an animated video for the album’s lead track “Calm Down”, directed by Beth Jeans Houghton. Additionally, Furman has announced news of an extensive international touring schedule the dates of which are here.

“This is our punk record,” says Ezra Furman. “We made it in Oakland, quickly. We drank and smoked. Then we made the loud parts louder. I hurt my voice screaming. This was back in 2018, when things were bad in the world. The songs are naked with nothing to hide.”

Immediate proof is offered by ‘Calm Down’ (aka ‘I Should Not Be Alone’), the album’s insanely catchy opening track and lead single, bound up in a compact two minutes and 22 seconds.

“Desperate times make for desperate songs” says Furman. “I wrote this in the summer of 2018, a terrible time. It’s the sound of me struggling to admit that I’m not okay with the current state of human civilization, in which bad men crush us into submission. Once you admit how bad it feels to live in a broken society, you can start to resist it, and imagine a better one.” 

Furman’s preceding album, 2018’s Transangelic Exodus, was “an angry and fearful and pent-up reaction to events too,” he recalls. “But it was a carefully written and recorded version; we took a lot of time with edits and overdubs. I knew I wanted I make this album quickly and not spend time thinking how to play the songs. Twelve Nudes is a ‘body’ more than a ‘mind’ record – more animal than intellectual, And by affirming negativity, it gives you energy, to reject stuff. There’s more space for positivity.”

Far from being defeated by a world in turmoil, Furman’s productivity has only increased the worse things have got – and he’s taken up different disciplines to boot. Between Transangelic Exodus and Twelve Nudes, the 33⅓ imprint published his deeply personal, thoughtful and incisive book on Lou Reed’s legendary 1972 album “Transformer”, before Furman scored the soundtrack to Netflix’s acclaimed comedy Sex Education (it aired in January), which showcased the tender side of his songwriting.

But all his pent-up energy had to be channelled somewhere: hence Twelve Nudes, which Furman and band recorded in October and November 2018 before the album was mixed by the venerated producer John Congleton (Sharon van Etten, St Vincent, John Grant). Furman says the album has two spiritual heroes – the late great punk rock rocker Jay Reatard, and Canadian poet, philosopher and essayist Anne Carson. “She’s one of my top three living writers,” he says. “Anne had these visions, or meditations, to deal with the intense pain in her life, which she calls ‘nudes’, and similarly these songs are meditations on pain and recognising what’s there if you go digging around in your anger and fear and anxiety. So, my album is called Twelve Nudes.”

“The record is political,” says Furman, “but it offers an emotional reaction rather than being specific or partisan.” Furman’s Jewish identity shapes ‘Rated R Crusaders,’ triggered by the Israel/Palestine conflict and its complex web of refugee trauma. ‘Trauma’, meanwhile, seethes with the spiritual malaise brought on by watching wealthy bullies accused of sexual assault rise to power. America, Furman well knows, is balanced on a knife-edge between white male supremacy and the dream of universal opportunity; hence the references to Mexico, slaveowners and US ‘founding father’ Ben Franklin in ‘In America’. As Furman sings, reiterating the spirit of punk rock, and positivity, “Put it all in a two-minute pop song / A really-mean-it-a-lot song for America.

“One of my goals in making music is to make the world seem bigger, and life seem larger,” he concludes. “I want to be a force that tries to revive the human spirit rather than crush it, to open possibilities rather than close them down. Sometimes a passionate negativity is the best way to do that.”

Twelve Nudes will be released 30th August via Bella Union and is available to preorder here.