Paddy Mulcahy is a Limerick city-based pianist, composer, electronic musician and producer who debuted his career scoring for shorts, documentaries and adverts. Ever since the release of his 2015 EP Tape Sketches, the musician has been steadily delving into a more modern classical, minimalist and experimental study of acoustic piano music. While also experimenting with recording techniques, Paddy Mulcahy has been concerned with marrying the raw sound of the acoustic piano with analogue instruments, an approach which he recently explored at length on The Words She Said (2017).
Written between Montréal and Limerick and released on Phases Records digitally and as a double LP on 15 November 2019 last, How to Disappear ventures into a more upbeat soundscape grounded in experimental ambient music and the infinite sonic possibilities suggested by analogue and modular synthesisers.
Opening the record and featuring a sample from a male choir rehearsal captured in Montréal’s St James United Church, the title track immediately signals a broadening of the sound palette which is sustained throughout the album. Revisited with xylophone, Moog basslines and recorded to cassette tape, that same track is given an ambient treatment on “Grass Reflections”. Using favourite techniques like close miking and multitracking, piano-based tracks like “Sunset Connoisseur” or “When Away” tap into nostalgia with elegiac motifs and Super-8-style illustrations.
From a technical point of view, How to Disappear features a huge range of analogue and modular synthesisers, keyboards, reverb rack units, compressors and drum machines, all of which fuel composition and creativity to various extents. Developed at the same time in the early 1960s, the popular Moog and Buchla synthesisers for instance had been eclipsed at the turn of the 1980s by the rise of digital equipment. But the last twenty years have witnessed a significant revival of the two iconic brands alongside a growing interest for the Eurorack modular synthesiser format which has made the technology much more affordable.
The early stages of this track were written when my digital Yamaha synthesizer wasn’t plugged in properly. It sounded scratchy, unique and perfect. Almost like a field recording on a bed of stones.
Paddy Mulcahy belongs to this cohort of young musicians reviving and pushing the sonic boundaries of the analogue equipment while also interfacing it with the digital world. The experimental “Through the Walls” for instance evokes the pioneering work of American electronic musician Suzanne Ciani who was instrumental in introducing the Buchla sound to a wider audience from the mid-1970s onwards. As well as that, the musician recently started posting a series of lengthy experimental videos on his YouTube channel entirely focused on building patches on his modular synthesiser.
On the exhilarating “Monomania”, the musician exquisitely adopts dance music aesthetics with a longer piece based on a short sequence of opening chords. Full of restraint but replete with infinite and subtle variations, this is a glorious signature tune that the musician will no doubt expand at will during his live sets.