- 08 Nov 19
The French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud was a rock n’ roller. He was a good-looking chap for a start, unlike the lumpy looking Verlaine and Baudelaire - although Baudelaire did write Enivrez-vous, the most rock n' roll poem of them all - and no stranger to the absinthe and the good times, and that’s not to mention work like A Season In Hell (1873), wherein the drugs he took left him leaning against the devil’s demesne. At only 19 he gave up writing, and took to the road, stopping in Indonesia, Yemen and then Ethiopia, returning to France to die at the tender age of 37. It’s a fascinating story and, sadly, far more interesting than anything on this album.
The second collaboration between Soundwalk Collective and Patti Smith - Philip Glass is in here too – it travels to Harar to examine this period of the poet’s life, working with the Sufi - Islam’s mystical branch - group Sheikh Ibrahim. The result is a mash-up of chanting, Smith’s readings of Rimbaud’s work – apart from her own ‘Mummer Love’ - and some experimental backing tracks. It looks good on paper but, when you sit down to listen to it, it’s hard work.
‘La Maison de Rimbaud’ with its sustained piano chords, backed by crickets chirping, and distant voices goes on for an aimless, and far too generous, ten minutes – the soundtrack to an art movie you have to pretend to like, Smith’s spoken word intoning jars against the chanting/electronics of ‘Eternity’, and the same thing happens on ‘Song Of The Highest Tower’. Things are only slightly redeemed by the closing ‘Sensation’ although the Sufi vocals seem shoe-horned in.
It’s a long way to travel only to return with nothing even resembling a tune. This is disappointing and hopelessly self-indulgent, or perhaps I’m just too meat and potatoes to “get” it.