Simon Mark Smith 2019
Running the risk of reverie, British artist delivers his most diverse, yet intimate, records.
Not too many of SMS’ listeners are capable of achieving with both hands what he accomplished without lower arms – something that the Eastbourne-based musician, painter and writer has been hiding from his online followers for years until revealing it recently in a very inspirational move – and “Dangerous Things” is an album to boldly banish the whole idea of disability out of the narrative this creative spirit has been spinning for about two decades now. Ever an optimist – Smith’s previous record was titled “Wonderful Life” – he uses computers to emulate real instruments, and one wouldn’t believe the provenance of organic sounds that Simon envelops his pieces in, although the musician’s fourth full-length offering does employ outside players because what he planned to call “Dreams” should require more layers than the single performer can provide. Still, those parts are but mere embellishments of his sonics on the songs which run from simple acoustic observations to electrically charged angst.
Simon may set things in motion with a gentle strum of “Driving Me Wild” that will unfold into a nervous dance, where heavy organ purrs and guitar lays down the blues, yet female vocals in the background help take the werewolf grief off the ground and toss it all towards a sax-smeared skies, before the sexy electronica and dry beats propel “Protected” back down to earth for a techno beat sprinkled with a pinch of jazz. Of course, it’s never a plain sailing in Smith’s world, what with the predatory disco of “Not Enough” or “Words Of Prey” replacing stately piano with anxious violin, switching between the two in a rather abrupt manner to reflect a relationship’s issues everyone can relate to, and marrying chamber music to country. There’s sweet, if vibrant, vulnerability to the album’s titular ballad – the best projection of Simon’s voice onto the canvas he’s caressing with velvet bass and plasters with delicate samples – and while the cello-adorned “Fallen Angel” feels a tad histrionic in its retro sadness, the deceptive patina of “Dream Girl” turns out to be quite infectious.
So does the pop angle of “I Feel You In My Life” and “A Story Of Love” which add soft funk and tender rocking to the mix, the former full of ivory-encrusted solemnity and the latter sporting a serene flute line, whereas the heartfelt folk arrangement of “Our Love Lives Forever” wraps its groove in a warm glow, casting a logical arc to “Neon Sun”: the record’s intimate, melancholic finale that erases the impression of 17 tracks being summarily too long. As a mirror of wonderful life, “Dangerous Things” is almost perfect.