katy morley removes the e from her surname and performs as morly, and this subtractive practice embeds itself in her music. after disappearing into her bedroom with a handful of instruments in 2013, the minnesota songwriter emerged earlier this year with in defense of my muse, an incredibly-focused debut ep containing a smattering of haunting, minimalist compositions.
the intimacy of in defense of my muse should feel immediate. morly is adept at crafting microcosmic worlds of sound that each have their own storied histories, from the juxtaposition of muted acoustic piano and warped vocal loops on “you came to dis sky” to the piano’s gorgeous union with foggy synth pads on ‘and sooner than we know it…”, but it would be short-sighted to attribute morly’s impressionable aesthetic solely to the warmth and familiarity that permeate her music’s outer shell.
woven into the unquestionable beauty are extended passages of agitation – particularly the discordant synthesizer interjections throughout “seraphase” – that delve into a second, comparatively unexplored dimension of morly’s persona. there’s a side of her music that swaddles you gently in a blanket next to a wood-burning stove, while the other embodies the flames in the fire, capable of lashing out at unpredictable intervals.
each song on in defense of my muse can be peeled back to its original, minimal piano sketch; it’s easy to imagine these slowly coming to fruition in a state of introspective solitude. these simple melodic fragments impose no musical limitations, though, and that’s the truly impressive component of morly’s approach to songwriting. whether they’re grounded in brooding textures, integrated into more euphoric dance explorations, or converted into subterranean harmonic progressions on “drone poem (in defense of my muse)”, the motifs serve as the ultimate reference point, and the piano’s versatility is the perfect analog to an artist that resists genre confinement.
morly’s debut effort is fulfilling. there’s enough artistic self-awareness throughout in defense of my muse for it to function well as a standalone unit, should morly ever decide to step away from her solo project, but the subtle intricacies of the dissonance she explores almost beg to be developed further. hopefully this is just the start of something. in defense of my muse is out friday via cascine; stream it here.