Soundwalk Collective | Sons of the Wind

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Soundwalk Collective
Sons of the Wind
Asphalt Tango (

The Asphalt Tango label, which has brought so many amazing recordings of Gypsy and Eastern European musicians to light, continues to stretch its wings. The release of the Soundwalk Collective's Sons of the Wind (vinyl and digital only) is unique, as the album is an experimental sound collage that traces the Roma path along the Danube, from the Black Sea to Germany. The Soundwalk Collective is an international collaborative unit, comprised by Stephan Crasneanscki (Russia, France), Simone Merli (Italy), and Kamran Sadeghi (Iran, USA).

The Soundwalk Collective fashions experiences -- sonic architecture -- out of field recordings and performance spaces. The Collective captures sounds 'in their element,' so what is crucial here is not just the musical performances captured, but also the widescreen environmental picture. I'm reminded of Chris Watson's soundscapes, where he primarily allows the sounds of nature to tell its story, or arranges found sounds to produce an aural movie. On Sons of the Wind, the Soundwalk Collective give voice to the geese and hogs, the village bells, the proclamations of women in their homes, and the sounds of children in the streets of the mahalas (ghettos) along their travels. And in moving amongst countries such as the Ukraine, Moldavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria, the wonderful, flourishing music of these countries is set in ambiances that veer from the tranquil to the chaotic. One frequently hears windows and doors (whether from cars, or cottages) opening – it's a nice metaphor for the Soundwalk Collective's critical aesthetic of sonic preservation and manipulation, leading to new sounds of olden ways that are documented for the armchair traveler.

There are no roadsigns to indicate where you are headed with the collective, and one assumes that the countries and musicians showcased on Sons of the Wind appear in the order as listed in the extensive liner notes. Many Roma stars appear in this mix, such as Marin Sandu (Romania), Esma Redzepova and Ferus Mustafov (Macedonia), and Boban Markovic (Serbia) – but here, their celebrity status is subsumed into the travelogue, and whether famous or not the musicians become a tide of (and tied to) living village traditions. It's a deep river of culture that gives Europe vibrancy, and one cannot help but think of the paradox of how the Roma are marginalized, stereotyped, and even feared, and yet the Gypsies nonetheless serve as a source of exotic allure.

Perhaps what the Soundwalk Collective does best on this recording is to show how the borders of the 'nation states' cannot define these sounds. The people and nature here are in dialogue, constructing their own narrative, and the sounds are part of this relationship. Further, the Soundwalk Collective arranges this material beautifully: Sons of the Wind begins in the Ukraine, with birds passing overhead, men singing, an accordion playing, and a cimbalom being struck…slowly, the Collective draws out the drone of the accordion, and the cimbalom becomes indistinguishable from a cow's bells slowly loping along. It's a dreamlike beginning, fading and yet still looped and present under the sound of a train bound for Moldavia.

The Soundwalk Collective use laptops, turntables, tape machines, and other materials to ply the sonic material into their sound collages, and the effect is often profoundly moving and immersive. For instance, at 12:05 minutes in, after spending time with a Roma family, there is a slow building of a chiming drone over the massed voices of parents and children. The sensation is of being lifted out of the scene to a transcendent, holy moment. This motif emerges again at the end of Sons of the Wind, rounding off this affecting journey amongst people united by music. Sons of the Wind is as much an art piece as a state of mind, where creativity and beauty merge. - Lee Blackstone

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