The latest release by cellist and composer Zoë Keating, Snowmelt draws you into her sonic universe within 17 minutes. According to the Bandcamp page, the EP features “four songs from the end of a long winter”.
Forte opens with strong vocal-like bowed notes that goes into a harmonised texture, windy and melancholic. Then, the rhythmic layered pizzicato answered with syncopated phrase builds a rhythmic counterpoint for the full harmonised melody. The B section’s melody has a folk like simplicity before more layers go on top building up the bowed melodies that sing. Then, the original phrase comes in strong, forte I guess? The bridge section introduces a new texture before the high register dreamy line enters. Answered by a low note, the original theme appears again. Closing the piece is a chorale-like phrase as the rhythmic pizzicato stops and a dreamy ice cold harmony closes the piece.
Icefloe is the second piece. Contrasting in mood from the rhythmic Forte, this piece is an exquisite embodiment of the title which refers a large pack of floating ice. Up to this point, I was already feeling cold by listening to the various choices of sound that Zoe used in this loop dense piece. The delays in the background and swells added to the feeling of ice. There is such a strong sense of intention and clarity in Zoe’s compositions and this piece is a great example of it.
Heading into Possible, the low rumble percussive notes set stage for the looped notes. Then, quickly bowed upbeats (first alone then harmonised!) create a very dreamy setting for the melodic theme that enters after two minutes. The effects that Zoe uses are very tasteful to further illuminate the sonic universe of Snowmelt. One of my favourite moments of the EP occurs at about 3:27 as the intense bridge like build-up makes way to a 1980s rock-tinged sparse bass line with a vibe that is still thematic and yet allows us to imagine something different. Then, we are greeted a the tasteful recapitulation with the effected notes and a low rumbling note that dies suddenly.
Nix begins with a lullaby like melodic statement. At this point, I wonder whether is this the part where we say farewell to winter? The childlike statement provides a base for an impressionistic recap of themes from the previous pieces (at least from my ears – I didn’t transcribe it!) As the childlike base get filled up, we hear more melodies and the contrapuntal textures come in with a canon like feel in the bass line that doesn’t resolve. Hence, perfection!
TLDR: Experiencing this EP is a real delight especially if you love dreaming in sound and are open to listening to stories without words. A beautiful masterful work by Zoë Keating, this EP is one for any fan of instrumental music, film music or just beautiful music, period.
Thank you Zoe for making such amazing music. I hope to catch you in concert someday!
Get the EP here:
[About Zoë Keating]
Cellist and composer Zoë Keating is a one-woman orchestra. She uses a cello and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of cello, creating intricate, haunting and compelling music. Zoë is known for both her use of technology – which she uses to sample her cello onstage – and for her DIY approach, releasing her music online without the help of a record label.
A cellist since the age of eight, Zoë pursued electronic music and contemporary composition as part of her Liberal Arts studies at Sarah Lawrence College in New York. After graduation she moved to San Francisco and fell in love with the startup culture of the late 1990’s, finding a career as an information architect and data analyst while moonlighting as a cellist. Zoë eventually combined her love of music and technology, using a computer to live-layer her cello and performing for late-night crowds in her San Francisco warehome.
Now, Zoë has a devoted, global audience. Her self-released albums have several times reached #1 on the iTunes classical chart, she has over 1 million followers on Twitter and her grassroots approach and artists’ advocacy has garnered her much public attention and press. She was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and serves on the boards of the Magik Magik Orchestra and CASH Music, a nonprofit organization that builds open source digital tools for musicians and labels.
Zoë has played and recorded with a wide range of artists, including Imogen Heap, Amanda Palmer, Tears for Fears, DJ Shadow, Dan Hicks, Thomas Dolby, John Vanderslice, Rasputina, Pomplamoose and Paolo Nutini. She has composed music for ballet, theater, film and radio and lends her music regularly to film, tv, dance productions and commercials. In 2014 she began composing for television, working on the scores for the A&E series “The Returned” and for “Manhattan”, a drama about the making of the atomic bomb. She is currently writing music for a pilot on Showtime.
In 2014, Zoë’s husband Jeffrey Rusch was diagnosed with stage IV non-smoker’s lung cancer. While she halted her music career to care for him and their four-year old son, their struggles with health care and insurance became the new subject of her blog. Jeff died in 2015 and Zoë continued to advocate on his behalf for patients, data portability and the simplification of medical insurance, culminating in a meeting with President Obama in October of 2016.
In 2017 Zoë moved to Burlington, Vermont. Her latest recording, a four song EP called “Snowmelt”, was released on June 30, 2018 and she is working on another.
“…a distinctive mix of old and new — layers of sound, that feel more like orchestrations than a solo instrument. “ – National Public Radio
“Swoon-inducing. Like taking a triple-shot of Absinthe before stepping outside of the bar just in time to see the sun exploding.” –SF Weekly
“… uses live looping to transform solo performances into multipart masterpieces.” – Electronic Musician
“…sublime minimalist music with a pop sensibility” – San Francisco Weekly
Creative Capital Foundation, 2009. Performing Arts grant
San Francisco Artsfest, 2005. Emerging artist award
Belle Foundation, 2005. Artistic development grant
World Economic Forum, 2011. Young Global Leader
[Submissions for Review Consideration]
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