Vermilion Sands

posted: 2024-04-25 Moves in the Field Kelly Moran

released: 2024-03-29
on label: Warp
artist: Kelly Moran
with some: ImpressionismNew Age
listen at: Apple Bandcamp Spotify
see also: All Music Album of the Year (83%) • Music Brainz Rate Your Music (3.55 / 5)

Kelly Moran’s first few albums consisted largely of prepared piano and abstract electronics, resulting in a type of ambient-adjacent music that was often glimmering and beautiful but felt inherently experimental due to the uncommon, sometimes a-musical sounds it used. Her 2024 album Moves in the Field presents as less avant-garde at first, as the ten pieces here consist primarily of acoustic piano unaugmented by noisy treatments or extraneous weirdness. The experimental angle for Moves in the Field comes in the composition and execution of these pieces, which Moran wrote in part using a programmable piano instrument called a Disklavier. Throughout the album, she plays on top of sequences she wrote for the Disklavier, often utilizing the instrument’s ability to play faster, more complicated, and more intricate piano parts than human hands are physically capable of.

Moran introduces this concept tastefully, beginning the album with the free-floating beauty of “Butterfly Phase.” The song is delicate and cautious, with thoughtful melodies floating on a bed of fluttering notes that bounce between registers and always land with laser-focused precision. The Disklavier’s powers are more apparent on the aptly titled “Superhuman,” where computerized arpeggios whirr by, sometimes getting so fast they register as glitches. Moran never pushes this sound so far that it feels gimmicky, however, instead keeping composition and emotional expression at the core of each song. The Satie-esque “Sodalis (II)” is patient and aching, while the reverb spirals that engulf “It’s Okay to Disappear” cloak any potential showiness of the performance with a warm melancholy. Moves in the Field is more Philip Glass than John Cage (in fact, Glass’ longtime engineer Dan Bora recorded and mixed the album), with Moran’s thoughtful writing and restrained use of what could have been show-stopping technology creating an insulated world of understated, wintery elegance.