LRushing through composer Kali Malone’s Dodge’s Spring Hide It Joy is like watching the weather move across the landscape. Like a still morning, sinewaves and chords slowly swell; An electric guitar is like a cloud blocking out the sun. It is the US musician’s fifth full-length album and his most comprehensive album. It consists of three hour-long versions of the piece, performed with visuals that bathe the audience in pulsating bands of color. “I want to create an immersive environment so that when it’s over, you don’t know how much time has passed,” Malone tells me in the empty Purcell Room on London’s South Bank the afternoon before the second performance.

The assertive, smart Malone is still in her 20s but already has a huge fanbase for her minimal pieces. She writes for vocals, electronics and other instruments, but after several split releases and EPs, her following snowballed in 2019 behind The Sacrificial Code’s organ dirges. It has become her signature instrument, which she regularly plays in famous churches and cathedrals – most recently at Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. But, she insists: “I’m not an organist, I’m a musician.” And acclaimed last year A living torch Built on French artist Eliane Redig’s rare ARP 2500 synthesizer cemented him in a lineage of minimalists and electroacousticians: density builds through melodic cycles; Pitches cluster, roar, sometimes break free to soar high into the sky. It has a glorious goth relic, resisting the feel of loud clean concert-hall classical.

‘I’m not an organist, I’m a composer’ … Kali Malone with a chamber pipe organ. Photo: Victoria Loeb

Moving away from organs, Dodge’s Spring Hide It’s Joy is her best album to date: a collaboration in which Malone plays tuned sinewave oscillators, with Lucy Railton on cello and Sean O))) with Stephen O’Malley on guitar. The time-stretching, tuning-based piece illuminates what it means to surrender to the loud sounds around you. “I didn’t want landmarks to anchor your musical memory,” she says. “I want it to be indescribable feeling.”

This applies as much to the audience as to the players, who must listen intently to each other during the performance. Where previous generations of musicians in this lane, like Redig or Kathryn Christer Hennix, often worked in spiritual practice, What Spring Hides It’s Joy finds Malone working from a natural sublime rooted in the awe of the Colorado mountain range. “Those mountains have defined every era of my life since childhood,” she says.

Malone, center, with his collaborators Stephen O'Malley and Lucy Railton in Dodge's Spring Hide It's Joy.
Malone, center, with his collaborators Stephen O’Malley and Lucy Railton in Dodge’s Spring Hide It’s Joy. Photo: Benedict Daquin 2022

Malone grew up mostly in Denver, where she went to state choirs, studied classical vocal music, then discovered gigs at age 13. “I was a very independent child, not so much supervision, and very adventurous,” she says. She moved alone to Massachusetts to study music, then bravely moved to Stockholm at age 18 after befriending the Swedish avant-garde composer Alain Arkbro. “I knew I had to go,” she says, “I’d arrive with an amplifier and a guitar, but the first week I got a job, got a visa, got an apartment—I somehow figured it all out.”

She studied electroacoustic composition at Stockholm’s Royal College of Music, where she found a fertile group including Arkbro, synth musician Caterina Barbieri and Maria W. Horn (with whom she ran the XKatedral label). Stockholm gave EMS access to rare synths, and she began working as a technician at the experimental venue Fylkingen (poetry to punk New York’s CBGB). During this intensely creative time, she composed the 2018 organ Dirges 2016-17 and Cast of Mind, and much of what was made of The Sacrificial Code: “Every day I would roll all the microphones and mic stands in the building where the organ was,” he says. “I was the last one to leave school every night – I was often locked out.”

Malone’s organ fixation began when she interviewed organ tuner Jan Borjeson during her studies. She climbs inside the belly of these mechanical whales and begins training with them. She was fascinated by their ringing, wheezing physicality but also by the tuning possibilities. “Holding two notes, then the resulting beat patterns reminded me of what I was looking for in my electronic music,” she says.

Kali Malone performing at Mira Digital Art Festival in Barcelona.
Kali Malone performing at Mira Digital Art Festival in Barcelona. Photo: Alba Ruprez

He is visibly excited as he explains the technicalities of how historic organs were recovered through a process of harmonic standardization. To grapple with the terminology, I ask if it means some are wearing clothes that don’t necessarily fit? “That’s a nice way to put it,” she says kindly. She elaborates on wolf tones and commas, and I’m completely lost. “I don’t know why more people don’t know about harmonics,” she says. “We learn about chemistry, about color – the science of sound doesn’t just apply to musicians – we experience sound every moment of our lives.”

He noted a less sublime ambient sound. “There’s a leaf blower that wakes me up every morning,” she says. The musician’s mentality is one who is as much a receiver as a musician: “There is so much beautiful sound – it is only your perception that you experience it as music.”

Will Spring Hide It’s Joy is released on January 20th via Ideologic Organ


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