katy morley’s work has always been arresting. under the mononym morly, she has thus far produced two swirling, ethereal extended plays, 2015’s in defense of my muse and last spring’s something more holy, collections that paired a strong pop sensibility with the catharsis of sparse, minimalist dance music.
next month, morly will release sleeping in my own bed, a three-song 12″ single that gravitates towards a more organic approach to songwriting. the end result is gorgeous; “sleeping in my own bed” finds morly’s aching lead vocal more prominent than it’s ever been, working in tandem with a sprawling acoustic piano accompaniment to create a plaintive, comparatively straightforward pop song.
despite a new focal point, morly’s sonic touchstones continue to be integral to this permutation of her aesthetic: the rhythm section takes a supporting role this time around, but still stretches out when necessary, and choral pads swell to add a celestial veneer to the track’s more expansive moments. regardless of which facet she explores, morly proves time and again that the precise combination of simple ingredients will yield a downright magical product.
sleeping in my own bed is out august 25th via cascine. take a listen to its title track below.
at the outset of her career, it appeared as if morly would be content exploring the emotional ceiling of minimal, ambient-indebted dance music. much of her debut ep, in defense of my muse, operates within these confines; only on its finale does she finally allow us to hear her voice. in that context, “drone poem (in defense of my muse)” was an anomaly, but now it feels much more like a prelude.
morly’s sophomore ep, the beautiful something more holy, is an about-face, a decidedly vocal-centric body of work that finds the producer and singer maximizing each facet of her minimalist palette. morly’s vocals inject energy and tension into the brooding, resting heart rate pulse of “if only chords,” while “by the polo pond” is particularly commanding, its rather bleak thematics delivered atop a synthetic brass section for extra emphasis.
but perhaps the most important voices aren’t the ones carrying the main melody. the ep’s title track is largely constructed around a bevy of vocal manipulations, ones that both support morly’s lyrics and juxtapose their smooth contour with a more angular polyrhythm; “plucky” uses similarly-manipulated textures to flesh out underlying harmonies.
something more holy again leaves much to be desired, but only in terms of quantity, certainly not quality. the ep’s physical release is paired with its predecessor; played in succession, the two outline an expansive, virtually limitless foundation for morly to further construct her sonic architecture. we’ll be waiting – albeit a bit impatiently – to hear what she builds next.
morly is sitting on her sophomore ep, something more holy, due out april 8th via the inimitable cascine. the minneapolis-bred producer and songwriter has since pulled up roots and relocated to los angeles, but her home state’s chilly atmosphere lingers in her compositions; the ep’s second single, “plucky,” is bundled up in morly’s tranquil vocals and dexterous drum programming, while steely tones work to generate more heat on the off-beats. take a listen below.
morly’s debut ep, in defense of my muse, was one of our favorites of 2015, and katy morley has already put forth one of the most impressionable songs yet this year. “the choir,” a standalone single for cascine, straddles the space between haunting and ethereal, pairing morly’s affinity for seismic bass tones with a commanding lead vocal that gradually cedes the foreground to distant saxophone bleats and sputtering drum production. listen to “the choir” below.
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.
it’s fitting that we would start again gravitating towards music from the midwest as the dimestore gears up for another cross-country move back to the region. our latest kick is morly, the pseudonym of minnesotan singer-songwriter and gayngs affiliate katy morley. her output often explores a symbiotic relationship between lush choral passages and minimalist electronic soundscapes; morly’s latest single “and sooner than we know it…” is a perfect example. the track boasts a bevy of ascending, ethereal vocal lines that benefit immensely from the busy production that gradually increases from the depths of its texture, moving from a hazy autumnal chill to warmer, more majestic pastures. “and sooner than we know it…” is the centerpiece of morly’s debut ep, in defense of my muse, out august 14th via cascine. take a listen below.