20. Kelly Moran, Ultraviolet (Warp)
I greatly admired Kelly Moran’s 2017 album Bloodroot, which saw the talented composer performing restrained, minimalist pieces on what she describes as “prepared piano” – in other words, piano that has been altered by various foreign objects to create sounds both dissonant and percussive. Where that album felt alluring and alarming at the same time, Moran’s follow up, and her debut for the great Warp Records is a lot more confident in the way it balances atonality and melody. These new compositions flow so naturally, notes often chiming like an aural version of dapples of colour, and this time around the dissonance serves the melodies rather than contrast. The gentle clangs and clunks punctuating the cascading, graceful melodies on tracks like “Autowave”, “Helix”, and the gorgeous “Nereid” feel as though they’re there to ground the songs, to keep those ethereal notes from flying away. It’s like a mellower Tim Hecker, less occupied with immersing the listener and more focused on gently enveloping instead. Best of all is Moran’s overall performance on this record: her piano playing feels so much more fluid compared to the rigid precision of Bloodroot. There’s a natural feel to it all, right down to the way the carefully placed noise and subtle electronic drones underscore the music. And such is life, is it not? Comfort and bliss are continually offset by sadness and gloom, both sides perpetually playing off each other. On Ultraviolet, the bliss wins, but that reminder of darkness never goes away.