Kelly Moran has unearthed new music: Origin, an EP available May 17 on Warp, is a compendium to last year’s Ultraviolet, featuring demos and unreleased material from that album. According to Moran, “These recordings show firsthand my musical discoveries in real-time for when I was having my major creative breakthrough.”
Among the new prepared piano tracks is “Helix II,” a kind of supplement to the original. There’s also “Water Music,” “Reflexive Music,” and “Halogen,” which illustrate how the finished Ultraviolet pieces developed. Most curious is “Love Birds, Night Birds, Devil-Birds,” which began in collaboration with visual artist Cassie McQuaters for a three-channel video installation for the Frieze Los Angeles Art Fair; McQuaters has since been providing visuals for Moran’s recent live performances.
There are seven songs in all. Here one of them, “Night Music,” here, and then pre-order the EP before its May 17 release.
You can also hear the mechanical beauty of the prepared piano in person, as Kelly Moran will be performing live throughout the summer. Check out the dates here:
04.27.19 – Durham, NC – Moogfest @ Carolina Theatre – Fletcher Hall
05.03.19 – San Francisco, CA – MUTEK SF @ Herbst Theater
05.11.19 – Charlotte, NC – END-to-END @ Camp North End
05.20.19 – Brooklyn, NY – Roulette
05.30.19 – Halifax, Canada – OBEY Convention
06.06.19 – Paris, France – Villette Sonique
07.20.19 – Barcelona, Spain – Sónar (Grand Piano A/V Live)
08.29.19 – 09.01.19 – Dorset, UK – End of the Road Fest
Origin EP tracklist:
01. Reflexive Music (Autowave)
02. Helix II
03. Halogen (Una Corda)
04. Love Birds, Night Birds, Devil-Birds
05. Water Music (Piano Solo)
06. Helix (Piano Solo)
07. Night Music
Hey kids; it’s time to rebel against the establishment and DO EXACTLY AS YOU’RE TOLD: Nova Scotia’s Obey Convention, a festival focusing on the best in emerging experimental music, has just announced its full lineup to its four days of programming.
Including plenty of acts from Canada, the second wave features the desert blues-influenced duo 75 Dollar Bill, the squelching treble and scream-punk of Guttersnipe, Toronto hip-hop duo Just John x Dom Dias, composer Mary Jane Leach, Vital White Mountain Apache violinist Laura Ortman, “Glaswegian dream-weaver” Cucina Povera, hip hop group Strange Froots, performance artist and vocalist Soeur Acéphale, and the Montreal-based goths Dregqueen. Holding it down are the sounds of kanun player Sanaz Nakhjavani, Sobey-nominated performance artist Bridget Moser, the gritty, distorted beats of France’s Slaylor Moon, “meditative wave producer” Nick Schofield, “queer swamp chameleon” Maskara, and Colombia’s Tamsaianka.
The slew of added artists magnifies the festival’s first wave roster, which confirmed Eartheater, DJ Haram, Kelly Moran (in her Canadian premiere), Tomoko Sauvage, Justice Yeldham, Mich Cota, Debby Friday, Korea Town Acid, The Brodie West Quintet, and Obey’s inaugural composer-in-residence Nicole Rampersaud.
All that is to say, there’s a TON going on, in every possible music genre (or anti-genre), designed to confront that safe and warm musical comfort zone you’ve been incubating in all winter.
And to boot, the festival is programmed to prevent FOMO: you can literally see everything it has to offer (Almost like there was some sort of secret hidden message threaded throughout to get us all to comply…) Plus, it’s free for anyone under 19 (…the younguns being the most susceptible to mind control after all). I mean, doesn’t all this constant defiance get a little, you know, dull?
OBEY kicks off May 30 and runs through June 2. So get to listening to that lineup, check out a sweet teaser trailer below, and grab your tickets before the rest of the experimental community complies.
Well, okay; not here-here. But “here:” the second-ever San Francisco edition of the steadily expanding MUTEK festival is going down soon: May 2-5, to be exact. Now, the first wave of the electronic music celebration’s artists has been announced, and oh my, you’re gonna like some of these names.
Uniquely focused on American acts among its various local iterations, MUTEK San Francisco will host some of TMT’s estadounidense favorites: Kelly Moran, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Steve Hauschildt & Tzonev, and Lara Sarkissian (of Club Chai).
The supporting international line-up looks equally thrilling, with Amnesia Scanner leading a pack that counts GAIKA, Smerz, Kode 9 (performing with Koji Morimoto), and N.A.A.F.I.’s Tayhana in its roster, among many others. Seriously, there’s a LOT of others, so be sure to check out the full line-up at the bottom of this post.
Tickets for the festival, including 4-day “passports,” can now be purchased through Eventbrite; they range from $150 to $450. Watch a brief recap from last year’s inaugural edition below, and then listen to a track from a lesser known of the just-announced performers, Edna King, ‘cause we know you’ve already listened to Amnesia Scanner like five times today.
MUTEK SF 2019 full first-wave line-up:
Abandoned Footwear & arc (US)
Amnesia Scanner (FI/DE)
BLEIE & Chelley Sherman (US)
Cool Maritime & Emily Sprague (US)
Cruel Diagonals (US)
Edna King (CA)
Freeka Tet (FR)
The Hacker presents Amato Live (FR)
Halal & Relaxer (US)
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (US)
Kelly Moran (US)
Kode9 & Koji
Kyle Evans (US)
Lara Sarkissian (US)
Lawrence English (AU)
Michael Claus (US)
Mozhgan & Josh Cheon (US)
Nihar & Subset (US)
Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement (US+FR)
Robot Koch & Mikael Le Goff (DE)
Steve Hauschildt + Martin Tzonev (US)
Veronica Vasicka (US)
Prepared pianist Kelly Moran has released a new live video for “Halogen” off her kaleidoscopic 2018 release Ultraviolet via Warp Records.
Covered in evolving projection lights, Moran’s bewitching style, which won us over last year,is amplified into a gorgeous audio-visual production. The projected patterns move organically toward and away from the artist’s specially altered piano as if her music was the source of their creation.
Check out the video for “Halogen” below and click here to listen to Ultraviolet in full.
als, the pia-
tions, were chosen
as one chooses
shells while walking
along a beach.
Socrates, upon finding a seashell:
Yes. A paltry object, just something I found as I was walking [on the very edge of the sea. I was following an endless shore. This is not a dream I am telling you.] It was the origin of a thought divided, of itself, between constructing and knowing.
(to get yourself in such a state of confusion that you think that a sound is not
something to hear but rather something to look at).
Ultraviolet, is then, the preparing, of, the pianissimo, the unprepared sounds, the what escapes us. The seashell’s dream of sea-shorn ecstasy. The metallic shimmering of what obstructs the strings — screws, bolts, un coup de dés jamais n’abolira… — reveals a sheen we cannot perceive, the very ambivalence of matter, the throbbing desire of the almost, the not yet, the not, the yet there escapes. Kelly Moran resurrects this trace, this voluptuous violence inscribed into form itself. A leaping beyond itself of a sound that would always withdraw into the security of sight. (We can’t see this color, but can we hear it? It lingers there in the periphery, a humming intimation of presence, a surge, a weight, a rush of blood.)
Imagine, for instance, the froth of seafoam flung to iridescent heights. It is a strange softness that contains all in a luminescence that exceeds it. The spark is diaphanous in the weight of the invisibility it offers. Imagine, for instance, moths gathered at the remembrance of a flame, their shed sheen resuscitating light loss. A shiver? Shaken to? Perhaps that blurs borders. Effervescence? In arpeggiating coruscations, like the fringe of flower leaf, an aura. A plenitude of presence, as if space withdraws from its weight. All horizons seep from its “containing nothing but itself,” its transformation of the evening earth, as Rilke, “into a handful of inwardness,” an aural dance, a longing, a song.
I wonder if Kelly Moran learned the mysteries of matter from her flower-psalms of Bloodroot, where her pointillistic found-sounds — prepared, arranged, then blown from palms like petals — reenact a flower casting off its form. Nudity clothes itself around the flower stuff that just might spill out into a blinding light, that perilous moment between heartbeat meets heartbreak. So, this gesture that undoes itself while itself dispersing, gathering itself is a living presence in which all horizons merge. Suspended in its grace, we fall to the second degree, weightlessly rising, spiraling though severed through substance. Each element a reflection of another, we spiral kaleidoscopically, vertiginous, in a vertigo to this center, eccentric, that is the very weight of light, a whisper, a shiver, a conspiracy of time that solidifies space.
Like one’s arms in arabesque, how in this gesture one gathers oneself into the reaching beyond oneself, and what flutters in intimate intimation condenses space and time into presence, twilit is the trembling of Kelly Moran’s tones, half gamelan half sea-foam and splendor. Or the sparkle of wind seething through metal hung monumental from a tree.
All the while, Daniel Lopatin’s synthesis of pure duration haunts the fragmentation of this diamond, jeweled world. I have no other word to describe this shimmering than as an “aura,” partly because its semblance is only aural, but, also is a breath, a soft wind, the weight of this absence of all that has surged through you, will search through you for its longing, the weight of all of your ghosts.
an ear alone / is not a being; music is one / part of theatre.
Because this weight is the gravity of a dance, gathering all of the possibilities of motion that waver silently around you into a gesture that embodies them, collapsing them into a living present. A falling, but the ground does not rise, and walking is falling to the horizon, so there is no ground, just a being submerged in, and listening, too, is a kind of falling, a submergence into the shimmering ultraviolet waves, a kind of falling gracefully into the waves that will receive you.
See? Next year is looking “up” already! Taking place from March 29-31, 2019 in The Hague, Netherlands and featuring the cream of avant garde music and performance art (and screenings, talks, and educational workshops), Rewire will once again present music and works from the kinds of top shelf artists that will stay with you long after you physically leave the City of Peace and Justice. This year’s Rewire crop includes Low, Tim Hecker, Jlin (and Company Wayne McGregor), Yves Tumor, Kelly Moran, Nicolás Jaar, Tashi Wada Group, Eli Keszler, and William Basinski and Lawrence English. And that’s just the START; more artists are still tee-bee-ay.
Festival passes are available here now. Individual day tickets will go on sale in January. To get a feel for what the fuss is all about, check out Mind the Film’s short doc on Rewire 2018 below, followed by the current 2019 lineup in full.
Rewire 2019 lineup:
Andrea Belfi & Valerio Tricoli
Astrid Sonne presents Cycles of Lost and Found
Bamba Pana & Makaveli
Gazelle Twin presents Pastoral
Henry Vega & Jan-Willem Troost
Jessica Sligter presents Polycrisis:yes!
Jlin & Company Wayne McGregor present Autobiography Edits
Kit Downes & Ensemble Klang
Lotic: ‘Endless Power’
Mohammad Reza Mortazavi
Sinjin Hawke & Zora Jones
Tashi Wada Group
William Basinski & Lawrence English
YEK: Mohammad Reza Mortazavi & Burnt Friedman
The first descriptor that Kelly Moran uses to describe herself in her bio is “composer.” The New York-based artist is also a performer — a pianist whose work fits neatly into that cozy space where contemporary classical and electronic music frequently consort — but on albums like 2016’s The Optimist and 2010’s Microcosms, the music was meticulously created, notated, and, sometimes, deconstructed.
For her new album Ultraviolet, Moran slipped into a new mode of creation. While she was still utilizing the prepared piano that helped form the material for 2017’s Bloodroot, with various sizes of bolts and screws stuck in between the strings to change its sound, Moran spent a day recording free-flowing improvisations, unsure if they would yield anything worthwhile. She just wanted to play.
When she listened back to those recordings, Moran realized that she had something to work with, raw material that she could shape into, for lack of a better word, songs. Adding layers of electronics and with a little assistance from Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) on three tracks, she came away with some of her most thrilling material to date. Even as the normal tones of the piano comes flowing through the mix, it’s dominated by the clanging, pinging of the prepared strings — a sound that finds a midpoint between the percussive beauty of a gamelan or hammered dulcimer, and the hypnotic thrum of a harpsichord. It’s already hypnotizing before the gentle purrs of synths come floating over the horizon.
We caught up with Moran during her trip to Los Angeles recently to talk about the inspiration behind Ultraviolet, the impressive amount of work that went into crafting the material for mass consumption, and signing with Warp Records.
Ultraviolet isn’t your first foray into using prepared piano. What made you want to come back to this method of playing and composing?
It’s funny you say that, because after I made Bloodroot, it wasn’t in my mind to make another record of prepared piano, just because I actually ran into quite a bit of difficulty when it came to performing that material live. There were a lot of venues in New York that wouldn’t let me prepare the pianos. I realized, “Hmm, this is kind of the most difficult thing I could have chosen to tour and try and promote.” It’s a very niche thing. I thought I was going to go in a different direction. It really, truly happened by accident. Bloodroot was a very deliberate exploration of prepared piano, because it was my first time writing for it. I was really trying to work with all these different ways of generating sound from a piano.
It just happened that way this time, because last summer, I was working on a couple of commissions for people that included prepared piano. My piano pretty much stayed prepared for the entire summer. I talk about this experience a lot, where basically all the material for the record was generated during this big improv session I had. I recorded it, and when I listened back, I was like, “Oh fuck, this is my next record!”
When you first started messing around with prepared piano, was there a lot of trial and error to figure out what objects worked best for the sound you were looking for, and to figure out exactly where to put the bolts and screws that you use?
Definitely. The first time I did it, I was at my parents’ house during a snowstorm, and I scavenged through their toolboxes. I had a box of preparations that I had bought in college. I had my own little toolkit, but I wanted to play around with some different sounds and some different screws and bolts. I remember the first time I prepared my piano at home, I did spend a lot of time picking out exactly what screws sounded the best and how a screw sounds way more percussive to me than a bolt does.
So, I spent a lot of time putting every different preparation in and figuring out which ones I liked. Now the way I do it is I have three little baggies that I use every time. I have a bag of screws and bolts that’s for the lower octaves, then a bag of slightly bigger screws for the middle and for the high octaves. So I always use the same ones, but sometimes they go on slightly different notes.
Listening to this album and Bloodroot, and other prepared piano work, it always feels like there’s a balance that you have to strike between the “unusual” sounds that you can create with these objects and trying to maintain the more natural tones of the piano. Is that something that you keep in mind when you are writing for this instrument?
It feels like a completely different beast to me. It really changes the piano so much that I’m not really concerned with making it sound like a piano. I’m actually trying to get it to sound completely different. One thing I really love is when people completely guess the wrong instrument I’m playing. “Oh, it sounds like she’s playing percussion or gamelan.” I work online a lot, so I read comments of people speculating what I’m doing, and I get really happy when people guess wrong, because I am trying to obfuscate exactly what the piano sounds like. The whole point is to make it sound different. So I take a lot of joy in that.
What can you tell me then about the post-production process? You’ve got these long improvisations that you recorded for this. How do you winnow them down to sections or “songs”?
The weird thing about it is I don’t consider myself an amazing improviser. I went to school with actual jazz prodigies and people who do that for a living. I have a lot of fun improvising, but I don’t think I’ve ever sat down to improvise something and walked away feeling like, “Wow, that sounds like a piece I wrote.” Until this day that happened. I think because of my mindset that day, something happened where I was organizing musical ideas in a different way. I was paying attention to how I was developing them. When I listen to the recordings, I actually thought that my structure for my improvisation felt very compositional and very planned, even though it wasn’t.
I spent about two months just obsessively transcribing all of my improvisation. It was a long, long process, but a rewarding one because it had been a really long time since I had tried to decode an improvisation. The last time I did something like that was for a homework assignment in college. It was really illuminating to look at the music and see what kinds of patterns emerge and what kinds of melodies I make when I’m not thinking about structure or harmony or any of those things that you think about when you’re deliberately writing a piece of music. It was really fun.
What did you do after you had decoded this material and edited it down? What did you do and add to it?
After I had that experience, it was kind of like fate where I had made all this music, and then two days later, I got an offer to do a show at a classical music venue in New York. They asked me if I had new material. Suddenly, I had a deadline. I just went to work. I transcribed all of the pieces, and I played most of them pretty faithfully at that concert. I was pretty faithful to the exact structures of the piece, because I think I was trying to replicate what I had done that day.
After that concert, I had spent two months playing this music and getting a feel for it. It felt really, really good to play. So I didn’t end up changing too much of the structure. I will say the biggest structural change came when I started incorporating electronics into it. I really wanted this to be a record for piano and synth. I really felt like the songs really lent themselves well to other soundworlds. It’s something I really enjoy doing, coming up with these different timbral soundworlds to envelop it. So once I was done recording all the piano material, I started messing with a little bit more by recording synth overdubs and bringing all these other elements into the recordings. I think that really had the biggest impact on shaping the material, as a whole.
I wanted to ask at least one question about Daniel Lopatin’s contributions to the record. I know he only played a small part in the process, but was this an instance where you felt you needed another set of ears and hands to help finish those songs?
Dan got involved with producing the record literally the first day that I met him in person. We had been in contact about me doing some performances for his live shows, for the Age Of live arrangements. He invited me to his studio to show me the record and talk about it. We ended up hanging out for a while and talking about music, and he asked me what I had been working on. I started telling him about my record. And I did volunteer the information that I felt like this was the first time where I started to feel like I needed a little bit of help because it was getting so ambitious. Even though I had studied recording and production, I felt, for once, that I could really benefit from having someone else come in and help me shape the material a little bit. Everything was mostly finished. I just needed a little refinement to everything.
As soon as Dan heard it, he got really excited and was, like, “Who’s putting this out? Who’s helping you produce this?” I told him I didn’t have a producer, but I kind of feel like I need a little help. He said, “I would love to help you produce this, since you’re helping me do so much stuff.” At that moment, my soul just kind of left my body. I was so happy I could not believe it was happening, because Dan is one of my all-time favorite producers. It really was like a dream for him to offer to be involved. I was curious to see what he would do with it, because something I joke about with him sometimes is that I’m always trying to get him to expand things and add more repeats and just let certain sections go on a bit longer. He’s always trying to get me to be a little bit more concise. We kind of meet in the middle. I really love everything he did with the material.
What does it mean to you to be working with Warp Records for this album?
It’s going to sound so cheesy but it really means so much to me. So many of the artists on Warp have had a huge impact in my development as a musician and my interest in electronic music. When I first started listening to electronic music, it was all about Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada and Autechre and Squarepusher. So to be on the same label as them is a very surreal thing for me.
When I was shopping around Bloodroot, I got so many rejections from labels who were really blunt in their criticism, saying prepared piano was not cool enough for the label or they didn’t think it was appealing enough or it was too different. I got all these rejections that were very much related to me not fitting in. So to have such an amazing label interested in me because of my uniqueness was a really validating experience for me.
You’ve talked in other interviews about your Roman-Catholic upbringing and growing up in the church. What impact do you think that had, if any, on the music you make today?
I have to say probably none, because I was really never a regular churchgoer. I had a phase in 7th grade where I was really into praying and I got quickly disillusioned. By the time I was in eighth grade and I made my catechism, I was pretty much agnostic. I enjoy liturgical music, and I love sacred music, but I wouldn’t say that that actually impacts me musically. It did give me a lot of shame as an adult. I still carry that!
I know you are likely going to be in the swell of promotion for Ultraviolet, but are you already thinking ahead to a new album or a new project to work on?
I haven’t actually. I feel like the label might be expecting that since I had a pretty quick turnover with the past couple of records, but I was still working on Ultraviolet this summer. We spent quite a bit of time mixing and mastering it. It was just finished a couple of months ago. And I’ve been really busy touring with OPN in the meantime. A lot of my time has been spent figuring out how to perform this record live. I’ve been working on new material sporadically, but nothing has really coalesced in a major way. I feel like I’m probably going to hole up somewhere in early 2019 and make the next one.
I’ve been spending a lot of time working out how I’m going to do the live presentation for this album. A problem that I have had as a composer is that I’ve written a lot of music that is not performable for me. It’s not what I’m thinking about. If you listen to Optimist, I’m making these pieces that have so many keyboard lines and so much electronics that it would either take several performers to do it or it would involve really complex live processes, dubbing out loops and all of that.
So, I haven’t done a lot of solo performances of my past material. But this is the first time that I’ve made an album that feels like a performance album from top to bottom. This summer, I had a fellowship and I basically spent the entire summer figuring out how I’m going to play the piano with the electronics in the backing tracks and crafting a live show. There will be touring, but I think I’m going to wait until 2019 so that the record has had a chance to make its way around the world. I want people to hear it and let it digest.
Shock, camp, trash, titillation, prurience…No one does all this quite like Mr. Prurient himself, Dominick Fernow. For over 20 years now, Fernow’s Hospital Productions has been THE go-to label for extreme noise performance and to prove the point, it will host a full day and night of live convulsive beauty in Queens in December.
During the noon show, Fernow will be playing with Texan thrash kings Power Trip, Justin Broadrick (Godflesh) will be on hand to lend his talented hands to a couple of sets (one with his Jesu project, one as Final), and live shows are expected from savage electronic producer and L.I.E.S. leader Ron Morelli and the wonderful piano preparer/composer Kelly Moran, among others. The late show features top techno miscreant Silent Servant and brilliant budding it-DJ Becka Diamond.
More acts are TBA, but check out the line-up so far below. Enjoy a few clips from this year’s artists while you’re down there — and of course, support the underground and grab your tickets here.
Early show, 12:00pm:
Power Trip with Prurient
Jesu with special guests (Justin Broadrick)
Final (Justin Broadrick)
Ron Morelli – Live
Late show, 11:00pm:
Silent Servant – Live
For more than a decade now, we’ve all been watching poor, lonely Hauschka do the “prepared piano” thing seemingly in isolation. So thank the lord that Kelly Moran is around to keep him company (and to make the prepared piano landscape a little more variable for us listeners!).
Her breakout record — 2017’s Bloodroot — is similar to the preceding Optimist in the way that its diversions from the assumed melodic paths are more common than not. Sparse notation is a feature as well on numerous tracks, and generally we’re left with a feeling that the world is spinning and that it owes us no favors. It’s pretty and not. It’s orderly and not!
Warp Records must’ve picked up on these unique talents, because they recently reached an agreement with Moran to release at least one new album. Ultraviolet is set for release November 2, and the goal, according to a press release, was to “annihilate” “experimental music’s imposing, esoteric, über-academic status quo in the name of pure, unbridled intuition” and “human joy.” In order to gain inspiration, Moran “squatted down in the forest, listening to the sounds of the wind and the wildlife” and wondered what it would take to make her music mirror the feel of her surroundings.
Pre-order the results here and (almost) gain the power of flight with the first single “Helix (Edit)” below:
03. Water Music
05. In Parallel
Back in the fairer days of late 2016, Brooklyn prepared piano virtuoso Kelly Moran quietly ushered a lovely song cycle into the world titled Optimist, and her spiraling, gently swelling keys simply floored us. Since then however, Moran has taken her ivory-shredding fingers even further through the looking glass, first in 2017 with her Cageian MIDI suite Bloodroot, then this year with her official enlisting in the Oneohtrix Point Never live band. But as her star continues to rise, she’s decided to go back and pay a little tribute to her roots with a newly remastered re-issue of Optimist, scheduled for release this very Friday, June 15.
In addition to the digital remaster (which you can hear via the handy Bandcamp link below), Optimist is also getting the physical treatment from Primal Architecture on the vinyl front and Obsolete Units for the CD edition. Revisit this lovely, enveloping record below (or dive in for the first time if you’re a newcomer), and if you happen upon an OPN ensemble show this year, keep an eye out for Kelly Moran dazzling on the keys center stage.