Winteriser III

by Paul G. Smyth

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Recorded live at the Goethe Institut, Dublin, 12 March 2009

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."



released March 21, 2010

Paul G. Smyth, piano



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Paul G. Smyth Ireland

Paul G. Smyth (b.1976) is a musician, artist and designer, based in Ireland. Since 1999, he has worked with Charles Gayle, Derek Bailey, Evan Parker, Peter Brötzmann, Keiji Haino, Barry Guy, Wadada Leo Smith, John Russell, Chris Corsano, Lol Coxhill, Charles Hayward, John Butcher, Hannah Marshall, Mark Sanders and Damo Suzuki, among many others, and written music for theatre and installations. ... more

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