Paddy Mulcahy is a Limerick-based pianist and composer who has already scored several feature films, adverts, shorts and documentaries. Formerly known as “Nubus”, the moniker he used for the more electronic side of his music, the musician has been gradually shifting his attention to acoustic instrumentation. His 2015 solo release Tape Sketches focused exclusively on piano and it was followed by the recent Twenty Six EP (2016) on 1631 Recordings. Released on 1 March 2017 last, The Words She Said LP explores the sonic contrast between acoustic piano and analogue synthesizers.

Paddy Mulcahy - The Words She Said (2017) - Artwork ©Eoin O'Connor
Paddy Mulcahy – The Words She Said (2017) – Artwork © Eoin O’Connor

When I start making music, I usually turn everything in the studio on – all the synthesizers and mixers, get the microphones recording and start playing around with a little idea.

If initial improvisation is at the core of the creative process, so is sonic experimentation. Paddy Mulcahy’s home studio features an upright piano surrounded by an eclectic range of vintage synthesizers that would have originally been introduced in the late 1970s or early 1980s. Some of the machines played on the LP include the Korg MS-20, the JEN SX-2000 or the Roland JUNO 60 along with various analogue drum machines or echo pedals.

There is something so beautiful about the raw tones of an analogue oscillator…especially one that hasn’t been tuned in a while!

Several contemporary keyboard players – Nils Frahm springs to mind of course – prefer playing and recording on these instruments, perhaps because they achieve a richer sound quality many digital instruments cannot match.

As well as that, playing an analogue synthesizer is tantamount to “sculpting” a constant sound wave using modulation, effects, filters and oscillators. The simpler controls and their inherent limitations seem to foster a more spontaneous approach to the recording process – many tracks on the album were captured in one take.

On The Words She Said, the musician focused essentially on pitching the textures of the synthesizers with subdued beats against the raw sound of the upright piano and of the xylophone on “Rifo’s Dance”, “Brother Walks In” or “Fire & Storm Song” for instance. At the same time, the microphones captured the incidental noises from the internal mechanics of the instrument, all adding to the inherently ambient soundscape of the album.

The Words She Said also features “On a Hill in Swinford”, an homage to the sadly-missed Mayo-based pianist and like-minded composer Conor Walsh who passed away last year.

Cover artwork © Eoin O’Connor