Experimental pianist Kelly Moran delivers a stunning performance traversing the entirety of her new record, with the great Kayla Painter opening the show.
Until recently, Kelly Moran was probably best known as the keyboardist in Oneohtrix Point Never's live ensemble. However, with her solo project she released one of the most intriguing records of 2018 in Ultraviolet. Harnessing a diverse set of influences, ranging from electronic and classical to jazz and minimalistic music, she produced a tour de force focused around a prepared piano. The prepared piano is a technique, mostly attributed to the experimental composer and musician John Cage, by which various objects are placed over the piano strings to alter the instrument's timbre. It was the key component to Ultraviolet, and when I found out Moran would be performing live in Manchester I just had to witness the magic of her record live.
First on stage was brilliant experimental music producer Kayla Painter, who produced an audio-visual spectacle. Painter's music drives through off-kilter territories, with the bifurcated beats leading the complex progressions. Throughout this wondrous trip the visuals were astonishing. At times they produced real-world images, as with the video for "Railway Lines", as the subtle narration further highlighted the narrative element of the track. But, it was the graphics at other times that resulted in moments of pure bliss.
Through abstract geometrical shapes or blinking lights, Painter was able to provide a visual anchor for her mosaically designed compositions. A further interesting twist was her composition "In the Witch Realm", which features samples of electronic music pioneer Delia Derbyshire, and which Painter has masterfully used to create new worlds around them. So, please do check out her works, especially her latest records in Pack Your Bivouac and Cannibals at Sea are definitely worth your time if you are in the mood for some immersive, experimental electronic music.
The stage was set, the prepared piano was all ready and Kelly Moran arrived. Ultraviolet is mainly comprised of piano performances, so this would be an audiovisual piano set. For that reason there was a brief introduction asking to keep applause until the end of the show, because we were about to experience the full tour of Ultraviolet. And so Moran started going through her latest record in stunning fashion, kicking things off with the introductory "Autowave", as the video was dressing the stage in marvelous lights and colours.
Carrying down this immersive rabbit hole, "Helix" took off through its subtle introduction and slowly built up. The beautiful melodies of the track took over, with their rapid rendition while the background drones raved with their heavy presence. It was easily one of the most impressive tracks to experience live, with Moran's performance highlighting its directness and sheer force. The trip continued with "Water Music", as the intricate rhythmic components met with an array of captivating melodies and further sonic experimentation.
The sound design aspect would rise over "Nereid", further establishing the atmospheric core of Moran's vision, merging with the strained piano strings to create this dichotomy between the classical and the modern. The abstract shapes and stories detailed by the video would merge with the melodies and soundscapes of "In Parallel", with the track's finale being in particular moving.
The end would come with the more bitter and dissonant "Halogen", before the open and mesmerizing "Radian" would conclude the show. What ensued was thunderous applause, deeply deservant of such a fantastic performance. Throughout the set Moran was simply spectacular, navigating through the twists and turns of her work and further exploring its soundscapes and melodies.
As a final treat she finished the set with some music from an upcoming release, which I cannot wait to listen to. An overall fantastic experience from both Kayla Painter and Kelly Moran, that transported the audience to a completely different state of experience. Just make sure that if either of them are passing by your city you do not miss them.
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