The great Patti Smith collaborated with New York City experimental audio artists Soundwalk Collective on the forthcoming LP "Peyote Dance," a celebration of French avant-garde dramatist and poet Antonin Artaud (1896-1948). I've been fascinated with Artaud's "Theater of Cruelty" since my first exposure to him in my friend Adam Parfrey (RIP) and Bob Black's seminal 1989 anthology Rants and Incendiary Tracts: Voices of Desperate Illumination 1558–Present. Knowing Smith's admiration for French 19th century poets like Arthur Rimbaud, this glorious homage to Artaud makes perfect surrealist sense.
"The will of that man, the energy," Smith said. "If we, the living, send out radio and energy waves, the energy of those last poems is still reverberating."
Above, the track "Ivry." Background from the Bella Union record label:
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.