The prepared piano is a wonderfully vague descriptor for a genre of instrument and musical expression. Some people weave it into other types of music, like Hauscka did so well with his 2017 album What If. Kelly Moran errs on the striped down side. Each track is like the piano has been detuned and smashed to bits and it’s both intriguing and a high bar to get over. If you want something unusual and percussive yet melodic though – Kelly has you covered.
Across the twelve tracks the piano is transformed into a smashed up collection of mallets, metallic scrapes, tubular bell styled notes, gong like mallets and occasionally – an ivory piano note. Each track wraps itself around you creepily. “Iris” opens cautiously as it unfurls the weird and alien sounds before “Celandine” rolls off the tongue like an otherworld jazz band of one. “Freesia” takes things further to capture a high speed arpeggio flicking its mallets like tin cans. It reminds me of someone playing a harp really quickly with a pen instead of a hand. The second half of the track is like someone’s gone nuts with a gamelan.
Each track transforms the piano into another instrument. “Hyacinth” changes things into an autoharp. “Liatris” is a bellscape and clock chime that’s been warped over time. Interestingly its the title track “Bloodroot” that feels the most like a piano, only one that’s plucked not pressed. It’s slow and methodical plod providing a fading moment of calm in a disorientating album. Much of the middle portion of the album tries to throw you off kilter, not so much with the sounds (they do that already) but with the actual chords. They flow – but feel about half a chord away from where they should be – like they are diminished. It’s not until we hit the Gothic “Limonium” we get a real flowing melody again before “Heloconia” rounds off the album with a single pulled out note vibrating its frequency underneath a minimal tune over the top. It rounds off what is a challenging and awkward album perfectly.
I know I’ll be talking to only a few people that would get what Kelly Moran’s even up to. Listeners will either hate it, enjoy the weird alien sounds but not really follow the abstract arrangements, or you will be the category where you are transported away to somewhere you won’t visit often, but be filled with wonder when you visit. Bloodroot is weird, abstract, experimental and at odds with itself – but I’m glad I have it for when I need to visit that place. Sheet music is also provided with the album, which is a fantastic bonus too.
Recommended Track: Celandine