There aren’t so many piano/percussion duos around, and I guess they’re a thorny proposition, but this is righteous improv from the Irish/American duo of Paul G. Smyth and Chris Corsano.
Cecil Taylor and Tony Oxley set perhaps the most obvious precedent, and notwithstanding Taylor and Oxley’s incomparable empathy and instinct Smyth and Corsano are almost as powerful, with a combined attack that’s typically more brittle, spacious and variegated.
Corsano, of course, has collaborated extensively on the improv underground, notably with veteran saxophonists Paul Flaherty and Akira Sakata. He also plays alt. rock in Rangda, and famously once recorded and toured with Bjõrk.
Smyth is just as diversely collaborative on the improv scene, and plays driving synth-rock with The Jimmy Cake. He also works as a visual artist and handles design for Weekertoft, which he co-founded.
The label debuted last year with the outstanding 4CD London improv revue collection Making Rooms, followed up with three digital-only releases including Smyth’s solo piano recording The Warning Signs. Psychic Armour, a CD-only release, was recorded at Dublin’s National Concert Hall in April 2015.
It’s a very well balanced set. After a heated opening its lead cut “Taming in the Power Cut” (13:15) quickly takes an intimate turn before compacting ahead of a thrumming, tempestuous surge in volume.
The album’s most concise piece, “The Through Line” (8:24) is perhaps its most remarkable, and primarily for Corsano’s work. It begins with three minutes of thick quasi-electronic stridulation, presumably scraped up by Corsano from cymbals or other metals, with sharp shards of highlight pianism. The resolution finds fractured beauty in a breakdown of workshopped physicality.
“Psychic Armour” plays out the final 33 wide-ranging and hard-to-second-guess minutes. The first ten deliver the sort of heated, high intensity exchange that only aggressively masculine free improv reliably excels in, but then the duo exchange gives suddenly to a passage of solo piano introspection that flirts with silence. For a while Corsano defers to a lovely Smyth improvisation with a contemporary classical sensibility, but gradually he edges back into the fray, fanning the embers of a heated frictional bridge towards more radical woodshedding and, eventually, a tumultuous denouement.
A well-rounded set that will get plenty of replay chez Dalston Sound.
Paul G. Smyth piano; Chris Corsano drums.
Rodrigo Amado – This is Our Language (features Corsano).
Parker / Russell / Edwards / Thomas / Blunt / Taylor / Leahy / Grant / Ward – Making Rooms.
Rangda + Carlton Melton / Six Organs of Admittance – Corsica Studios / Birthdays, October 2012.
Buy Psychic Armour direct from Weekertoft on Bandcamp.