Updated: Jun 28, 2021
Visual artist and singer-songwriter Morly (aka Katy Morley) announces her debut album ‘Til I Start Speaking, out August 20th on Cascine, and shares new single/video “Dance to You.” Morley's soft, swooning strain of storyteller pop has distilled across the past half decade into an increasingly hushed and heartfelt private language, as lived in as it is lyrical. Her debut full-length took shape slowly during stints in Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and London, stripping back the melodies to their essence, driven by a yearning to “reach ‘the other side,’ to live in and be art and music.” The songs that emerged are time-worn, aching, and acoustically rich, like hymns or traditionals, traced in piano, voice, and percussion. She describes the creation process as almost a “subconscious exorcism,” casting out old ghosts and outgrown loves.
After establishing her singular style with a series of EPs — In Defense of My Muse (2015), Something More Holy (2016) and Sleeping In My Own Bed (2017) — Morley took some necessary time away from the public eye as she battled chronic illness. She returns now with newfound strength and focused sound. Much of ‘Til I Start Speakingrevealed itself as she found herself falling in love with someone across the Atlantic. The Minneapolis-born artist relocated from her homebase in Los Angeles to London this year, joining her partner, who was “a beam of light irrupting into the darkness” of her deteriorating health. The album paints a portrait of realizing you’re in love. It’s also the result of Morly finding herself at the crossroads of graduate school and considering pursuing music full time. Morly felt adrift and estranged from herself, but year by year she's closed that gap in incremental ways: studying piano, pursuing painting (her artwork adorns the sleeves of her entire discography), unlearning self-doubt, trusting one's inner voice.
Working with frequent collaborator Christopher Stracey, Morly followed a muse of stillness and naturalism, allowing each composition to flower in its own fluid, elegant way – arriving finally at a sequence he quipped as “nine sleep bangers and a bop.” There is indeed a sensuous, low-lidded mood to this music, as though sung at a quiet hour in an intimate setting, a quality she ascribes to her affinity for conscious listening: “It’s in my own silence that the world really comes alive, and I see the deep connections.” Morly's voice moves in reflective pools, spotlit but subdued, full of lilts and breathy pauses. The effect is one of patience and hidden wisdom, transmuting sorrow into strength, inspired by her hero Nina Simone's ability to “take the saddest feeling and alchemize it into joy.”
'Til I Start Speaking represents a stylistic movement towards organic sounds that was hinted towards in Morley’s previous works, blending her love of classic acoustic songwriting and minimal electronic music. This manifests in new single “Dance to You,” the follow-up to previously released single “Twain Harte.” “Dance to You” opens with piano before expanding with Morley’s soothing voice and a velvety bass line and a mellow beat. Morley elaborates: “‘Dance to You’ is about the need for--and is the vehicle for--a benevolent exorcism. It sprang from an encounter with someone so radiant to me that they helped light my way, but that I had to outgrow in order to see my own brilliance: I can’t grow/inside your glow.”
The incredible accompanying video, directed by Lawrence Pumfrey and choreographed by Katya Bourviski, explores the sort of dream state and rush of inspiring infatuation, but also its malleability and destabilizing effect. “Katya and I talked about my experiences as a young artist finding my feet in a difficult industry, especially with flagging health, and the constant pressure to define and sell yourself which helped to inform the structure of the piece,” says Morley. “It's also partially inspired by Pina Bausch's dance, Kontakthof.”