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Cory Smythe: Accelerate Every Voice (Pyroclastic)

A review of the pianist's second album on Pyroclastic

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Cory Smythe: Accelerate Every Voice
The cover of Accelerate Every Voice by Cory Smythe


File under jazz? New music? Classical? Free improvisation? Try all of the above. The sonic language that Cory Smythe has brought to his own recordings as leader, and to his work as a collaborator and sideman, blurs any lines.

Smythe’s multifaceted, cerebral approach to music-making isn’t a surprise, considering that he’s played with Anthony Braxton, Tyshawn Sorey, and Vijay Iyer. A trio of records under his own name (2011’s Pluripotent, 2017’s A U T O TROPHS, and 2018’s Circulate Susanna) demonstrated the command he possesses on piano and electronics. Now he’s taking his compositional techniques to a new level with Accelerate Every Voice, his second effort for pianist Kris Davis’ Pyroclastic label.

According to the press release, Smythe may have been inspired by Lift Every Voice, Andrew Hill’s exquisite 1970 album that married jazz with a large choir, but Accelerate Every Voice occupies its own realm. Alongside a vocal quintet of Kyoko Kitamura (voice), Michael Mayo (voice, looper), Raquel Acevedo Klein (voice), Steven Hrycelak (vocal bass), and Kari Francis (vocal percussion), Smythe creates hectic, feathery sound-worlds that rest on a similar improvisatory plane to the music of Amirtha Kidambi, Ka Baird, and Fay Victor. His knotty, playful lightning-speed passages and hypnotic dronescapes are the perfect backdrop for the lush layers of vocal acrobatics that dart and dance throughout these nine compositions.

The spasmodic “Northern Cities Vowel Shift” kicks the program off with a dizzily intricate blast of wordless vocals. The title track follows with even more chaotic time signatures and turbulent conversational interplay that improbably and sublimely meshes. “Marl Every Voice” and “Vehemently” combine melody with psychedelic abstractions and textural beauty, while “Kinetic Whirlwind Sculpture” is an intense drony rumble. The record concludes with “Piano and Ocean Waves for Deep Relaxation,” a 19-minute sprawl of ambient tones. Expansive sound, cutting-edge vision.

Preview, buy or download Accelerate Every Voice on Amazon!