Psychic Armour is the new album from the duo of Paul G. Smyth and Chris Corsano. Released through the Weekertoft label, run by Smyth and guitarist John Russell, it was recorded in late April 2015. Psychic Armour is an intriguing journey and a fine addition to the world of piano and percussion duos.
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.
The opening salvo of “Taming in the Power Cut” sets the stage neatly for the open-ended assault that is to come over the course of Psychic Armour’s 55-minute running time. The short middle track, “The Through Lane,” gives us the long, dark night of sleeplessness that precedes the main battle, which is waged slowly and deliberately over the course of the title track’s thirty-three minutes.
The album is extremely well paced, a master-class in how to create structure in an improvisatory context. Ideas linger just long enough to be developed before the next one is tossed out, chewed up, and spit back into the fire that stokes the duo’s imagination.
The name of the album and the final track is intriguing. I’m not sure if the music is supposed to be armor for my protection or for the duo’s. Either way, it’s excellent. It’s aggressive and wild in places, and eerily calm and beautiful in others, like the moment when the eye of the hurricane passes over your house and you know that despite the momentary quiet, your life is still in danger.
Fall has come to the Northern Hemisphere. Light a fire, fortify yourself with a stiff drink and your favorite blanket, throw Psychic Armour on the stereo good and loud, and keep a copy of Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense (get it from Amazon) at your side, just in case.