by Robert Leeper
From symphonies to string quartets and slightly off-kilter arrangements of Jimi Hendrix tunes, there is a lot of music for strings out there. On Wednesday night at Subculture, Rasputina member Zoë Keating displayed her own contribution to that rich tradition, using a cello, pedals, and a foot-controlled laptop to record layer upon layer of intricate, haunting, hypnotizing music.
Leonard Bernstein once famously said of Beethoven’s music: "One note follows another with complete inevitability," which could also be said of Keating's performance. The shimmering sonic landscape of "Frozen Angels" seemed to flow perfectly into wistful songs about her home in the redwoods north of San Francisco. Consistent throughout her free-flowing sound was a kind of restless nostalgia, with widely spaced modal progressions in the vein of Michael Rother and others who walk the line between "classical" minimalism and popular music. Songs like "Fern" and "Seven League Boots" drew you in with their warm, reflective qualities, and kept you listening with simple melodies and flowing shapes of sound.
Because each song is reworked each time it is performed, it is not enough to just have Keating's recordings—a live setting is essential to truly appreciate Keating's ability as artist. During quieter moments of her set, you could hear a pin drop as the audience hung on every note. Ultimately, Keating's warm personality and abundant talent made clear why she has such a devoted following. And SubCulture, which sold out all three of her performances, proved to be a perfect venue for Keating: a classical performer gone pop in a performance space gone bar (or is it the other way around?).