Published Nov 01, 2018Five minutes into "Water Music," the narcoleptic third track on Ultraviolet, the latest document of sublime piano renderings from Brooklyn composer Kelly Moran, everything stops.
Moran spends the time leading up to this moment reiterating a gently tumbling prepared piano figure, extending and altering the sequence each cycle with a stylistic flourish that destabilizes the progression's axis, items she's fixed to the piano's body and strings pattering with an intensifying percussive timbre reminiscent of rain on a tin roof the more she lays into it, reaching into her instruments and sweeping the strings like a harp. But here, a single, glowing drone just hangs in the void like a chance ray of sunlight shining through the clouds at the precise moment rain breaks, the wet patina of everything shimmering in its radiance.
From here, there's a dramatic shift in instrumentation to calmer conditions, as piano notes fall in sparse, scattered drips and electronic flourishes pan from ear to ear like gleams of light through stained glass.
Tenderly tactile and breathtakingly exhilarating, these are precisely the kinds of moments Moran set out to conjure when she conceptualized Ultraviolet.
"I was squatted down in the forest, listening to the sounds of the wind and the wildlife, and all the echoes surrounding me," Moran explains in a press statement. "I asked myself: How can I make music that feels like this: Natural, connected and effortless?"
It's a design her music is uniquely suited to: Moran's whole process seems entirely in service of drawing out the organic potential of her instrument, reaching into her piano and messing with its innards, jamming screws where they weren't meant to be or placing objects on the strings; the electronic sounds she incorporates are often perversions of sampled acoustic ones.
But the effervescent sound worlds Moran crafts on Ultraviolet take that to another level, her overflowing crystalline projections frequently resembling patterns we find represented in nature, adding embellishments and mutations of her own.
On "Helix," a circular piano melody gradually accumulates shape as a wooly pillar of processed tone builds beneath. As that new element accumulates mass, the melodic line gathers momentum, as if intrinsically bound to chase the peak of that monolith. A dizzyingly whimsical composition, ten-minute centrepiece "Nereid" dances freely around as if tracing the delicate, meandering path of a fluttering butterfly.
Ultraviolet is indebted to the charm of the natural world, but with it, Moran unlocks dazzling new ones in the process, keys jammed firmly between the strings of her instrument. (Warp)