Telegraph Harp; LP, CD, DL
What does a breakthrough sound like? To borrow a tetchy old turn of phrase, you might not know how to define it, but you know when you hear it. And bloodroot, newly released by Kelly Moran, a New York-based composer and multi-instrumentalist, absolutely qualifies. The album, Moran’s debut on the artist-run Brooklyn label Telegraph Harp, follows a string of increasingly confident self-released efforts. Those earlier recordings remain well worth exploring, but bloodroot is the ideal place to become acquainted with Moran and her signature sound: a style clearly beholden to Erik Satie and John Cage, but influenced as well by her work in a wide variety of situations and idioms.
An instrumental polymath, Moran worked her way through the woodwind family in high school, during which time, she confessed in a recent interview, she also fixated on jazz-fusion electric bass maverick Jaco Pastorius. In college she devoured the experimental-piano fundamentals of Henry Cowell, whose ghost-harp strumming enhances bloodroot, and Cage, whose junk-gamelan dances for prepared piano are vital to Moran’s conception.
What’s imperative to understand in approaching bloodroot is that Moran’s stylistic wanderlust never abated, but instead enriched her outlook. Studying formal composition didn’t preclude adapting Billy Corgan’s EBow-enhanced siren song. Likewise, in analyzing minimalist compositions by Philip Glass and Steve Reich, Moran found affinities with black metal acts like Burzum and Krallice.
That wide-angle approach to music appreciation has guided Moran’s professional career path. Beyond her work as an accompanist at Barnard College and the Martha Graham School for Contemporary Dance, Moran has played keyboards behind Mitski in Sam Garrett’s atmospheric art-metal outfit Voice Coils, and bass guitar in Weasel Walter’s frenetic no-wave quartet Cellular Chaos. Further standout collaborators include fellow omnivores Toby Driver (Kayo Dot) and Charlie Looker (Extra Life).