PAUL G. SMYTH

PRESS


SOLO


Paul G. Smyth
The Warning Signs
Weekertoft
2016

Recorded in July 2010, in his native Dublin, The Warning Signs consists of two extended improvisations that capture Smyth alone at the piano and in fine form. The half-hour long “The First Sign” opens quietly and gradually reveals a selection of the sounds that will form Smyth’s palette, including struck single notes, scraped strings and prepared notes. Seamlessly, the music becomes more coherent as he gradually increases the volume while making the transition to a series of arpeggios that are allowed to ring out undamped.

In typical style, Smyth explores various combinations and possibilities in ways that sound unplanned and unforced, as though driven by his own curiosity and sense of discovery. For the listener, the overall effect is to radiate a sense of calm and tranquillity that is very easy on the ear. Smoothly through the gears, he moves onto a prolonged passage characterised by resounding chords which build to a tumultuous climax before coming down for a subdued final passage. Throughout the piece, the music retains a sense of control and is never remotely chaotic.

Remarkably, Smyth repeats the feat on the second track, “The Third Sign,” coming up with a piece that is just as fresh and inventive as the first, without displaying any signs of falling into well-worn pathways or standby tricks. Together, these two tracks provide ample evidence in support of the description that has been applied to Smyth, “One of the most exciting musicians working in Ireland at the moment.”

The good news is that Weekertoft plans to release a duo recording of Smyth with drummer Chris Corsano. Until then, savour the YouTube clip below of Smyth alone at the piano.

All About Jazz, September 2016


“A year or so ago, I was told about an amazing gig that had happened in the National Concert Hall. It was unlike any live performance that the person recounting the night had ever seen. From that moment I was intrigued and eager to see Paul G. Smyth perform.

Smyth, a member of The Jimmy Cake as well as a revered genius in the art of improvisational music is probably one of the most important musicians in Dublin. A sentiment immortalised following an outstanding, and at times unnerving, performance on a remarkably beautiful summer’s evening in St. Finian’s Church.

… Before taking to the keys, Smyth harrowingly plucked the strings, creating sounds not dissimilar to a harp or violin. The exploration into the various guises the piano is capable of assuming is central to the performance. Every usable surface and mechanism of the instrument is tested and in those moments Smyth morphs the keys into percussion and strings. You develop a newfound appreciation for the instrument. It is outstanding to watch a musician of Paul’s calibre to totally transform an instrument that is so familiar in this way.

… The tempo varies and Smyth’s fingers quicken along the keys and the pressure promptly changes from soft touches to forcefully assertive executions. The tone shifts from gracious rifts to thundering waves and vibrations that bounce around your ears and head. It’s not unpleasant, it is totally possessive for both the listener and the musician. When Smyth plays, it is like watching an exorcism. His whole being is completely captivated by the music, the keys are like the pathway that Hansel and Gretel enthusiastically followed, innocently guided by the breadcrumbs, an alluring uncertainty entices Smyth to venture fearlessly to where the music will lead him. It is a stunning, unfiltered and totally unique exhibition.

As I left the venue walking with a pleasant buzz in my ears, I was excited to share what I had experienced with friends. I would tell them that Paul G. Smyth performing live was one of the most mesmerising acts of musical ingenuity.”

The Thin Air, June 2016


 

JMI

JMI

JMI

JMI

JMI

JMI
Volume 8, Number 3
May / Jun 2008

Feature Article: Be Careful Of The Mark You Make
Benedict Schlepper-Connolly

Benedict Schlepper-Connolly talks to Paul G. Smyth, improvising pianist and keyboard player with The Jimmy Cake.

The full text of the article is here


 

Brainwashed
16 May 2010
John Kealy
CD Review: Winteriser III

“Recorded live last year in Dublin, the performance captured here on Paul G. Smyth’s latest album sees him pare back his piano improvisations to a crystalline and cool minimum. Limiting his runs across the keys has resulted in a rich but focussed exploration of the tonal capabilities of the piano (which despite its abundance in recorded music never fails to be a constant source of creative inspiration). Smyth is always a pleasure to listen to and this disc is no exception, I am kicking myself for not having made it to the concert in the first place.

Compared to Smyth’s last album—Descenders—Winteriser III is a far more controlled yet intoxicating recording. The first of the two untitled pieces on this new disc initially recalls the quiet and serenity of late Morton Feldman. Smyth gently caresses the music out of the piano, extracting the notes from its body like a magician pulling handkerchiefs from his sleeve. As the piece gains momentum, any relation to Feldman is lost as music patters on the eardrum like a heavy rain shower on a glass roof. The transition away from softness to this turbulence is not jarring; Smyth’s improvisatory style is never heavy handed. Relying not on shock tactics, Smyth blends his attack slowly from almost quiet to a more forceful approach and brings the listener along with him in incremental steps.

On the second piece, Smyth’s playing resembles a startled bird that has accidentally flown into a room and cannot find the window to escape. Out of the piano come fluttering notes, beating against each other like feathers against the air. The piece ends with the hollow sound of Smyth bypassing the keyboard to hit and pluck the inside of the piano directly; the unintentionally captured bird’s tremulous heartbeat thumping its last. The silence after the albums finishes is one filled with the thoughts of what I have just heard as Smyth’s ghostly playing echoes on after the fact.

Smyth’s previous solo albums have all been deep, immersive works (even though some of the recordings are brief). Usually I have to be in the mood for them but enjoy them when I am ready for them. However, with Winteriser III Smyth has made a more accessible version of his piano improvisations yet loses none of his emotional impact. I would in fact argue that this alternative view of his playing has a greater emotional impact than usual. I also have learned an important lesson: next time I will not miss the gig.”


 

The Wire
Issue 296, Oct 2008
Outer Limits Keith Moliné
CD Review: For Christina Carter

“A 3″CD reissue of an 18 minute piece that originally appeared on a Foxglove label compilation, this showcases Irish pianist Smyth’s considerable gifts as an improvisor. Building from a few hesitant melodic daubings into a huge churning mass of tumbling arpeggios, it’s a genuinely cathartic listening experience. His approach is slightly reminiscent of a more crashing, energised version of The Necks’ mighty Chris Abrahams, in the way he causes his music to spiral outwards from a still point, covering a lot of ground with few abrupt dynamic or harmonic shifts. He just does it a lot more loudly. It would be interesting to see how he might be able to sustain such fuck-you intensity over a longer timeframe. I note with some amusement that he tags his MySpace site “the bad-tempered clavier”. Luckily for us, it sounds like he was particularly pissed off on the day he recorded this.”


 

JMI

JMI
Volume 8, Number 1
Jan / Feb 2008

Live Review: The Necks / Paul G. Smyth Benedict Schlepper-Connolly

“Paul G. Smyth – who I have come to regard as Ireland’s darkest jewel – opened the concert with two solo piano improvisations. They formed perfect preludes: unlike the silky calm of the Necks, Smyth’s style is more troubled at the surface and is generally groove-less and a-rhythmic; but their undercurrents are unisonly serene. (That said, Smyth did send out an occasional beat and pseudo-melody, so uncharacteristic that each one was a revelation.)
… both made refreshingly clear that non-directional music such as this deserves our attention, especially in our modern, trajectorial culture. It goes nowhere and has nowhere to go, and that’s alright.”


 

JMI

JMI

JMI
Volume 7, Number 1
Jan / Feb 2007

New Work Notes John McLachlan

“Paul G. Smyth’s ‘Descenders’ was a true example of the art of improvisation, using the most contemporary musical resources to produce something concentrated, absorbing and energizing.”


 

The Wire
Issue 236, Oct 2003
The Compiler Clive Bell

“Congratulations to Irish pianist Paul Smyth, for creating the perfect track out of the 99 crammed onto Grain (Dotdotdot 003 CD). Marrying content admirably to form, Smyth flutters daydreaming fingers across the piano like a passing splash of sunshine and flickering shadow across a wall, for all of 54 seconds, which was exactly as much as I wanted to hear.”



PAUL G. SMYTH / CHRIS CORSANO


“With the energy and focus on display, it is tempting to compare the meeting to two heavyweights coming toe-to-toe, prepared to slug it out… but that would not do it justice, as it would ignore the co-operation and empathy between the two… the two contribute equally to the music’s impressive variety, momentum and musicality. Their music is guaranteed to quickly draw in listeners and keep them engaged throughout. Please may this duo become more than just a one-off encounter.”
All About Jazz

“makes you realise just how good improvised music can be… This CD is a master class in how to improvise, how this music speaks, communicates and above all entertains – absolutely.” ★★★★
Kind of Jazz
Sammy Stein’s Top 3 Albums of 2016

“this is righteous improv from the Irish/American duo of Paul G. Smyth and Chris Corsano … A well-rounded set that will get plenty of replay chez Dalston Sound.”
Dalston Sound

“Operating at an extremely high level, Smyth and Corsano share a special connection. One can almost see their thoughts syncing together and their bodies merging into one four-armed monster. Several moments are reminiscent of the best work from Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley, while still managing to sound like Smyth and Corsano.”
Burning Ambulance

“There are a few different ways of getting into Paul G. Smyth and Chris Corsano’s new duet album, Psychic Armour. One is taking Smyth’s tri-partite, fractured-sphere cover design as some Venn diagram of the pianist, drummer, and listener each having their own personal heads cracked open. Another is cranking up the volume so the duo’s rumbling, staccato attack floods the space around you like a suit of armour. And one is just setting all these possible meta-references aside and taking in the wide-ranging duo in all its glory… Smyth was new to me. Nevertheless, his playing is dynamite… there’s a painterly quality to Smyth’s playing, whether a series of quick pointillist runs or textured washes of sound…. The echoey silence that follows sounds like the room catching its collective breath, before whooping applause rushes in.” ★★★★
The Free Jazz Collective


BOYS OF SUMMER


 

Brainwashed
18 April 2010
John Kealy
CD Review: Future Ancients

“Continuing their upward arc from their previous two CD-Rs, this is a stunning work from the Boys of Summer. Here, the trio have pushed the inter-dimensional jams out even further into the vast void of eternity. Their music is richer in detail and more expansive in range than before. What starts as a relatively transparent sheet of sound bursts into fractals of melodies, beats and rhythms. Forging a more definite identity for their music, this album is another shining beacon in an over-cluttered DIY electronics scene.

Following their previous releases, the upward trajectory of the Boys of Summer has been maintained on Future Ancients; the sounds they pull from their synths becoming larger and lovelier, the three players interlocking as one hive mind. On “Hail Sagan,” they generate a haze of cosmic debris that dwarfs the current haze of volcanic ash circulating over most of Europe. Unlike the volcanic ash’s forced grounding of all air traffic, the Boys of Summer encourages us to fly with them; the pulsing tones acting like warm updrafts which allow the music to soar into orbit.

The sinister alien radio interference of “Cyclopean Walkways” take the album in a darker direction. Like the music found on their debut release, V, this is a difficult and unsettling piece but where in the past their music fell through their fingers, here they push the malleable miasma of noise into shape. That shape resembles something unfathomable from the cold, dark depths of space: the psychedelic revelations of Arthur C. Clarke terrifyingly pushed through the mind of H.P. Lovecraft. The chill leaves the music with the shift to the title track which all too briefly brings the mood back to something triumphant; the startling realisation of “Cyclopean Walkways” leading to a euphoric epiphany.

Stepping back from all the celestial verbosity above, Future Ancients is a fantastic album. The Boys have honed their craft on the Dublin live circuit and they sound more and more like a distinct unit away from the other groups they play in and away from their contemporaries who I and others have compared them too in the past. Yes, they still could share a bill with the likes of Emeralds and the audience would be happy but the Boys of Summer are now on a different course to their musical colleagues. From the sounds of things, the journey is only starting and we have yet to make the jump into hyper-drive.”


 

Foxy Digitalis
19 Oct 2010
Bobby Power
CD Review: Future Ancients

Dublin-based trio The Boys of Summer’s third album, Future Ancients, falls in line with the recent boom of celestial synth-kraut artists Brother Raven, Bitchin’ Bajas, Pulse Emitter and Rene Hell, but the band still manages to establish its own sound rather than dilute the genre. Clocking in at barely more than 30 minutes, Future Ancients packs in as much dynamic action and movement in less time than many other bands’ full lengths. Album opener “Hail Sagan” launches into a complete immersion of overwhelming ghostly synth noise. Buzzing and bubbling tones assault your ears and you can’t help but feel as though you’ve been transported into a horror film set in space in a great way. “Zetetic Astronomy” could easily soundtrack Tarkovsky’s Solaris or an Arthur C. Clarke story reinterpreted as an after-hours horror movie. With that being said, the closest album in recent memory that can be compared to Future Ancients would be Expo ’70 side project Umberto’s 2009 album From the Grave. Although From the Grave was conceptually intended to soundtrack a nonexistent 1970s horror film, The Boys of Summer created their own aural sci-fi journey. These scenes are as equally meditative and placating as they are engaging and unsettling. “Cyclopean Walkways” sounds like a looser and spacier Indian Jewelry if they completely dropped all percussion and opted entirely for throbbing and destructive walls of synthesizers. Truly magnificent stuff. I’m definitely looking forward to following what should be a solid discography from these guys…but not these guys.

8/10


 

Brainwashed
31 Jan 2010
John Kealy
CD Review: Pharaoh

“Expanded to a three piece, this second EP from Dublin’s Boys of Summer hits all the spots that V failed to tickle. With a far richer palette of tones at their disposal, the group offer an immensely satisfying journey through the dustier regions of that piece of meat between the ears that calls itself a brain. Like transmissions from another planet, these three pieces are alien sounding and utterly bewitching.

Immediately Pharaoh sounds fuller than its predecessor V. The combination of a smooth but rumbling low end and some of the most beautiful synth tones I have heard this side of Venus make the opening title track sound as regal as the ancient kings it takes its name from. Undulating slowly over the course of the track, the drones coaxed out of the machines by their operators create a hypnotic, vivid tapestry of sound. Unfortunately, at just over 9 minutes, it is way too short.

Luckily there’s plenty more where that came from. Both “Coriolis” and “Beyond” are exceptionally good, the textures created by the various players in both tracks feel like the shimmering expanse of space. “Coriolis” battles with “Pharaoh” for being the highpoint of this EP, its epic scope makes me feel like the insignificant speck of dust I am in the universe but in a totally wonderful way. The humming ambience rolls like waves across the room, expanding as it moves towards me. Taking things down a peg, “Beyond” is less captivating than its counterparts on this CD-R but it is still a beautiful piece and caps off Pharaoh nicely.

Along with Emeralds, Oneohtrix Point Never and their ilk, Boys of Summer are a group who are taking the things I love about bands like Cluster, Coil and the spacier side of Ash Ra Tempel and explore the territory these greats first claimed in the name of music. I am not sure whether Boys of Summer (or indeed any of the new wave of Kosmiche music) have reached the lofty peaks of these pioneers but they certainly show with Pharaoh that they mean to travel far further into the deep space of the synthesiser than many dare to go.”