The Weekertoft label is fast becoming known as a label which introduces people to improvised and original music. This is not surprising when it is led by John Russell and Paul G. Smyth and equally when the quality of the music is high. I asked John Russell why the new label a little while ago and he said, “As musicians we need to find as many ways as we can to engage with an audience and I hope our label, Weekertoft, will become one of those ways...it will be tough but Paul and I are realists as well as dreamers and I think we have the balance right. The music must always come first and therefore we have to develop a market for the product we have. Wheels were definitely put in motion when we were putting together the Mopomoso UK tour in 2013 and probably a long time before that in conversations about life, the universe and everything with Paul. The reason for doing it now is that it needed to be done." And here we have Paul G. Smyth and Chris Corsano’s release on the label, Psychic Armour.
There are just three tracks on the release - but what tracks. The first is Taming In The Power Cut and is 13 minutes plus of conversation between the drums and piano. Tentative, light, almost polite at the start, the music develops into a full-bodied sound picture – at times open and loosely framed, at others dense, deep – and the tapestry is woven around the framework to create colour, layers and textures. What is great here is the seemingly absolute listening of the players to each other – as each drops in, out and grows loud or soft, the other reflects and mirrors them so there is a lovely balance, delicate yet so steadfast in its foundation, the listener never feels assailed upon, an emptiness or the lack of something to say from either musician – and it is important to remember there are just two musicians creating all these wonderful sounds. Even when the middle section fades almost to a whisper, the percussion and delicate, tentative lingering notes from the piano never quite let it vanish completely, keeping the conversation going, just a pause – a moment of beautiful reflection, again felt and picked up by both musicians – and then on we go. There is a lovely chord ascension from the piano in the second third and a short heavy beat section too, followed by a resonance using piano strings – something for everyone, yet all woven and intertwined to create this rich and multi-coloured tapestry of sound.
The second track is The Through Line and is atmospheric, esoteric, with echoes, electric sounds and a rhythm which, given that the title was in my head by this point, sounded like a train having mild convulsions somewhere in a train graveyard, if there are such things. Eerie wailings, screeching and tinklings add to the sense of a metallic catastrophe but the trinkling, tripping piano notes floating over the top prevent it from being jarring. This is quite beautiful and a really clever working of the sounds together, creating something quite charming by the simple addition of well placed high notes. It disappears into nothingness at one point and the silence works perfectly, allowing the introduced sounds, one by one of strings, percussive notes and then a steady beat to which you find yourself listening intently, waiting for the next change in sound. Distortion and tunnel-like echoes emphasised, for me anyhow, the tunnel-like feel of this track. Highly creative and very lovely.
Track three, Psychic Armour, is just over 33 minutes of improvised music, starting with percussion under which the piano ripples and rolls. In fact, the effect is wave-like and the drums then develop a frenetic energy with the piano answering in kind. There are quieter sections, a brilliant drum solo played with energy and ferocity which suddenly drops to silence – into which the piano crash lands with an equally energetic frenzy of sound development. Suddenly we are part of a conversation again, the dueting, the to-ing and fro-ing continues and there is such an unspoken communication between the musicians it is as if they are two parts of the same organ. Listening to this kind of improvised music and the interpretation each musician brings, following the other's lead before it goes back and around again, changing and evolving, makes you realise just how good improvised music can be. Even the silences are just so long – not too much, not too little – and the fact this is a live recording and you hear nothing from the audience shows just how engrossed they were – as was I. I had not heard Chris Corsano before but it is clear he is intuitive and a perfect foil for Paul G Smyth on piano. This CD is a master class in how to improvise, how this music speaks, communicates and above all entertains – absolutely.
Paul G. Smyth, piano
Chris Corsano, drums
Released October 28, 2016
30 April, 2015, Kevin Barry Room, National Concert Hall, Dublin, Ireland
Recorded by Spud and mixed at Guerrilla Sound Studios, Dublin
Mastered by Matt Saunders, recording thing
Photography by Fergus Kelly
Design by Paul G. Smyth