Kelly Moran – Bloodroot (2017)

Share this:

Sticking deck screws between the strings of a piano is to most a form of mischief by a six year old, but to a those musicians who thrive in the realm of avant-garde chamber music, it’s a way to really open up the tonal reach of that instrument. Those screws (or forks or whatever household device one wishes to use) bring a percussive effect and a little microtonality you can’t get from a unaltered piano. Though the prepared piano has been more-or-less invented by John Cage some eighty years ago, the creative ways it can be exploited are still being discovered to this day. That’s the main thrust of Kelly Moran’s Bloodroot, which came out earlier this year through Telegraph Harp Records.

Moran is an accomplished pianist who doesn’t need a tricked-up piano to make quality music, but her muse resembles the muse of forbears like Cage and minimalists such as Philip Glass, Steve Reich and Terry Reilly, though she also finds common ground with the Aphex Twin and black metal bands. These influences are brought to bear on a prepared piano alone create enough intrigue for Bloodroot but for some of the pieces Moran adds more a unique approach to electronic enhancement, creating a MIDI-mapped keyboard of her own samples manipulating piano strings, and folding them into prepared piano performances. Since the samples looped in are sourced for the same instrument they’re enhancing, it has the effect of broadening the range of strange timbres from a piano in a very collegial way.

“Freesia” is one of those tracks that received a little electronic help, and it’s barely noticeable but not because it didn’t do its job, but because it did its job without getting in the way. Strumming across the piano strings that’s likely done through sampling sets the chord pattern on “Hyacinth,” which Moran accentuates by playing the keys. A drone resembling a pump organ provides the backdrop for “Heliconia,” which Moran sprinkles with notes placed sparingly and somewhat randomly for better impact.

“Limonium” (video above) is representative of tracks that has no electronics involved, revealing that the prepared piano is in itself sort of a forerunner to electronic effects because of how preparing the piano performs essentially the same role and the vibrations it produces sounds electronic-like.

The entire program runs only thirty-two minutes, with only one track running over three and a half minutes. That’s part of the allure, actually. By distilling her ideas to concise, bite-size portions, there’s no patience required on the part of the listener to fully appreciate her ingenuity. Indeed, Bloodroot is not your common minimalist record, and even those who hadn’t embraced that style of music could be drawn to its strange peacefulness.


S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on jazz.com, AllAboutJazz.com, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SVictorAaron
S. Victor Aaron

Latest posts by S. Victor Aaron (see all)

Share this:
Close