I went through a "prepared piano" phase in college, much to the chagrin of my significant other at the time. While others were listening to The Strokes or LCD Soundsystem, I was buying John Cage boxed sets and generally being insufferable to talk to at parties.
I have Sonic Youth and Aphex Twin to thank for this. Sonic Youth stuck various objects like drumsticks and screwdrivers to create a third bridge for their guitars, which made for interesting timbres and tunings. Aphex Twin's Drukqs album deviated from his traditional electronic music and introduced some prepared piano pieces — the most famous being "Avril 14th."
Recently, I learned about Kelly Moran after she covered the aforementioned Aphex Twin song. Like Richard James, she's on the Warp label, which released her last album, Ultraviolet, in 2018. Ultraviolet is forty-five minutes of beautiful, sprawling prepared piano pieces that, along with added synths by Daniel Lopatin (of Oneohtrix Point Never fame), fill one's room (or head) with expansive, lush melodies.
Moran's tones are more percussive than one might be used to with a traditional piano — sometimes, it doesn't sound like a piano is playing at all — yet it's never jarring or unfamiliar. It might just be the perfect soundtrack to our current predicament.
Ultraviolet by Kelly Moran is out now on Warp Records. Please consider supporting the artist directly by purchasing their album.