Towards the end of the recording, before parodying a conversation between a trick-or-treater and the one holding the bowl, Kevin Morby made a declaration.
“Hello, hi, welcome to my home.”
By this point though we’ve already felt at home. The split second shuffle and hum that arrived at the onset, just before the piano entered, felt like an invitation: stripped of all pretense, it was clear we were in an intimate setting. Not that there was any question of Morby’s hospitality: 2020 featured countless streamed performances from rooms across the lockdown multiverse, with Morby among those graciously letting us take a break from the monotony and gawk inside their homes. But this was different.
As the scales shifted from warming up to a slow sway, Morby tested out different flourishes. A bassline emerged, followed by the beginnings of a structure. Then in the middle of probing the timbre of a vocal line, Morby pares the arrangement down to a single echoing note.
“My tea is boiling,” Morby crooned over the repeating piano, before dropping low to a whisper: “My tea is boiling.” And with that the song dissolved.
Part ASMR, part Notes App goldmine, this sound collage was brought to life in full homebrewed technicolor by Morby’s recent purchase of a portable digital recorder. Chronicling life at and around Morby’s home in Kansas City, Missouri, the arrangement of sounds and accompanying improvisations laid bare the chaos of inspiration, and the sonic beauty hiding in the most banal actions. But on the heels of Morby showing his work by releasing A Night At The Little Los Angeles (Sundowner 4-Track Demos), these moments feel tethered to the process of marching toward a finished product.
Making tea, looking at the weather, or doing dishes were suddenly equally fertile ground, with the mere act of getting a new gadget radically shifting Morby and the listener’s relationship to the sonic environment. It was in these moments that the space between domestic life and the natural world collapsed spectacularly. A gentle cacophony of frogs, the blue-flame hush of a gas burner, the thunk of footfalls on hardwood amidst heavy rain are interwoven with piano lines, guitar, and harmonica, framing the music within the found material, highlighting how each component has potential when used correctly.
Combining the slightly feral ethos of the Microphones with the kinetic energy that leads John Darnielle to turn on his boombox, this intimate portrait of an artist breaking new ground revealed how every work of art is an accumulation, both of experiences and attempts. With a Blast Box now in Morby’s creative arsenal, it’s even easier to capture lightning when it strikes, and let us be part of the experience when it happens.
“Music made at home has long been my favorite music to listen to,” Morby dictates to himself at one point, as the tapping of computer keys kept pace beneath his voice. “Music made on a budget, music made on the fly, music made right after it was created, music made with only music h⸺” it abruptly cuts off. And suddenly we’re back at the piano with a new melody entering its fledgling stages, rapt at attention by the knowledge that at any moment it could break apart and fade into the white noise murmur of the room.
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