Kelly Moran, “Moves In the Field”
By Ted Davis · March 29, 2024 Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

Over the couse of the last decade, Kelly Moran has cemented herself as a cornerstone of modern experimental music. She found solace learning orchestral instruments in grade school, and began dabbling with electronic production as a teenager. After graduating with a degree in Performing Arts Technology from the University of Michigan, she pursued an MFA with a focus in Composition from the University of California Irvine. After her studies, Moran returned to the East Coast, where she cut her teeth in the Brooklyn no wave scene. In 2016 Moran released optimist, which united academic traditionalism and groundbreaking timbres. On subsequent releases, Moran further honed her pristine, yet nervy sound. Blurring neoclassical, ambient, and glitch, her music is often built around prepared piano—a technique that involves placing everyday objects between strings to create jittery effects. This outré approach has yielded collaborations with A-list innovators like FKA Twigs, Yves Tumor, and Oneohtrix Point Never.

Moves In The FieldMoran’s latest full-length for Warp Records—finds her inching away from her roots, turning towards a borrowed Yamaha Disklavier for inspiration. Touted as the World’s Most Advanced Piano System, the Disklavier offers a contemporary spin on the player piano. At certain points, Moran programs the instrument to produce baffling arrangements that defy human capability. Centered on uncanny maximalism, the record is a turbulent listen. Across 10 tracks, dense chords and exquisite melodies call to mind a walk through the outskirts of a stone-walled city. Moves In The Field is moody and ritualistic—Moran’s stormiest album to date.

Moran began writing Moves In The Field in 2019, between stretches on the road performing on the biggest stages of her career. Enraptured by the rush of the afterparty, she initially set out to craft a propulsive, poppy record. But when pandemic lockdowns hit, Moran found herself mourning canceled tour dates and moving back in with her mother. There is a rawness to these pieces that harkens those gut wrenching times. On “Don’t Trust Mirrors,” twirling arpeggiations call to mind mist falling over a dusky suburb. “Leitmotif” contrasts spacious drones and rapid high end. Closer “Solar Flare” is dazzlingly layered, seemingly countless hands tapping out skeptical phrases on the same overloaded keyboard.

In a recent interview with Tone Glow, Moran discussed the way alternative vantage points impact her process. She cites LSD and advanced playback features on the Disklavier as tools that have allowed her to critique herself from trippy, nuanced perspectives. On Moves In The Field, all of that results in an album on which countless notes all seem slotted perfectly in place. Yet for all of the left-field precision that shaped it, Moves In The Field is deeply human. It’s like sheet music from an alien planet, unearthed from the heart of some mossy cavern.

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