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Hatchie - Keepsake Music Album Reviews

Hatchie's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.
Shoegaze offers the perfect place to bury bad feelings; there is a storied legacy of groups like Slowdive and Mazzy Star sinking Tory conservatism and post-breakup remorse into hazy swirls of distortion. Harriette Pilbeam uses Hatchie as an outlet for more quotidian concerns — friendships, romances, nostalgia. On her EP Sugar & Spice, Pilbeam offered glassy guitars, long sighs, and some bright choruses, but there was nothing darker beneath the surface to reward your close, ongoing attention. She promised a broader palette for her debut, but Keepsake feels hemmed in by the same lack of depth. Pillbeam's platonic ideal of dream pop goes down a bit too easy, like another rewatch of a John Hughes film.

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Soundwalk Collective/Patti Smith - The Peyote Dance Music Album Reviews

Over field recordings sourced from the Mexico of Antonin Artaud’s travels, the New York singer gives voice to the French poet’s hallucinogenic visions.

In 1936, the celebrated French poet, playwright, and theorist Antonin Artaud traveled to Mexico’s Sierra Tarahumara to escape the confines of insular bourgeois society, seek out mystical ways of being, and kick an opioid addiction. He found the key to all three quests in peyote. The result of his hallucinogenic journey to the mountains was a 1945 collection of writing called The Peyote Dance, which today reads uncomfortably as a dated account of a European engaging in some drug tourism. It is as snooze-inducing as listening to someone you don’t like very much telling you about their experience with doing edibles on study abroad. It is also the source text of the second album from Soundwalk Collective with Patti Smith.


Like the group’s last effort, The Peyote Dance features Smith interpreting another poet’s work over a series of field recordings processed through electronics and delay. Tracing Artaud’s footsteps, Soundwalk Collective went to Mexico to capture the sounds on the album (gusts of wind, crackling fire, a breeze flowing through leaves); one member actually took peyote while he was there. Following a Spanish-language introduction set to ritual drumming and read by Gael García Bernal in which Artaud describes experiencing “the two or three happiest days of my life,” the darkness sets in. Artaud’s writing offers a panoply of grotesque imagery (“urinary camphor from the bulge of the dead vagina which smacks us when we spread it out”) designed to shock. The poet was deeply influenced by Surrealism, which looked to dreams as a source of hidden truths. And what better way to access dream states than through drugs?

Reeling off line after line (“What does it mean? It means that Daddy-Mommy no longer buggers the innate pederast, the filthy tusk holes of the Christian fuckfests”) of Artaud’s psychoanalytical soul-dredging, Smith brings an undeniable urgency to the task, her voice a gravelly hiss. It’s too bad that her tenacious and tactile approach to these words is largely dwarfed by such monotonous backing tracks. You can only listen to thunderclaps in the distance for so long, and whatever Soundwalk Collective traveled to Mexico to capture—the spirit of the Rarámuri people, the echo of Artaud’s presence there—it doesn’t translate to tape. The music is hypnotic only in that it never seems to end.

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Artaud’s writing hasn’t aged well. Today, it smacks of exoticizing a persecuted group of people for the benefit of a privileged European traveler’s self-discovery. Smith’s interest in the subject matter makes sense, particularly given the prevalence of addiction among her friends and peers in New York’s underground. Still, hearing a piece like “Tutuguri: The Rite of Black Night” treat the Mexican landscape as one big drug-fueled apparition doesn’t feel great. The static-filled “Alienation and Black Magic” is more compelling, attacking “insane asylums [as] conscious and premeditated receptacles of black magic.” “There is nothing like an insane asylum for gently incubating death,” Smith intones, offering a bleak premonition of the final years of the poet’s life, as he cycled through one institution after another.

Fortunately, one song on the album is unhindered by Artaud’s ramblings: the only track that Smith wrote, “Ivry.” On this nearly seven-minute lullaby, the proto-punk icon sings of vines, mothers, and lovely mornings. The fingerpicked guitar sparkles like a celestial body painted on a bedroom ceiling. It is a moment of clarity on an otherwise foggy and disappointing record, and it leaves you feeling full of light and ease, at least for a moment.


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