REVIEW: Morly - In Defense of My Muse

Kelly Kirwan

In the fall of 2013 Katy Morly stepped into a machine with a box of old instruments and a pair of borrowed headphones. In spring 2015, Morly came out.

It's the perfect introduction for Cascine's new artist, the LA-based producer and occasional vocalist known simply as "Morly," who's joined the ranks of their label's alternative-pop roster with her new EP, In Defense of My Muse. Sparsely detailed and still incredibly suggestive, the preface sets the tone for Morly's musical personality so far. Minimalist and enigmatic, you find yourself wondering just what happened inside that studio, and who is this Morly, exactly?

There's been a gradual internet hum building around her since she released the track "Maelstrom" on Soundcloud with Ryan Hemsworth's Secret Song Series, but she's buzzed under the radar until recently. Now that she's gaining traction on music sites and through the grapevine of her streaming followers, Morly's airy, in-the-wind kind of persona is only adding to her musical intrigue.

It seems we forgot that piqued curiosity beats overexposure any day.

Even more refreshing than her "show don't tell" rise is her unique sound. Only four tracks comprise her new EP, but they're distinguished by their mesh of delicate piano melodies and modern synths. These classical and choral influences are the connecting threads between her songs, which often feature her soft, beguiling voice drifting somewhere in the distance as a scattered or indistinct lyric (with "Drone Poem" being the only exception).

In fact, Morly's vocal sound often relies on onomatopoeia for its description, like "Seraphese," where she repeats "aaah-aha-ahhh" as the song builds to a crescendo of fuzzy synth, bass, and ivory-key interludes. The result is a catchy rhythm that will give you the chills and get stuck in your head with the best of 'em. Morly's voice is almost siren-like, captivating yet somewhat haunted, pulling you in with an eeriness you can't quite pinpoint. As Cascine aptly stated, she hovers in the "transient space between joy and melancholy."

While she may now reside in Los Angeles, Morly admits that the wintry landscape of her native state, Minnesota, has also had an influence on her music. As you make your way through her songs this makes sense; her melodies feel pristine and lonesome, yet still beautiful. In her final track, "Drone Poem," Morly croons "No I never loved you / And I know I never will..." and you wonder who the subject might be. Old flame, perhaps? Doubtful. "Drone Poem" is more likely Morly's ode to follow her own artistic path, without wavering under public opinion. Because that would defintiley be disingenuous to her muse.

Staring at her album cover, a delicately-drawn outstretched fist, I tried to discern some kind of meaning. Maybe it's a metaphor for Morly not revealing herself just yet, leaving us to simply guess what's protected in the palm of her hand. Maybe. The thing with Morly is that you can never be positively sure, and there's a charisma to that artistic ambiguity.