“You could power a small moon with Zoe Keating’s creative genius.” – me, June 7th, 2019
I curled up in my seat and reread the status message. I was Bolt-Busing home from Seattle where @sassygrrl1 and I had seen Zoe Keating perform twice in a row–her own show the previous day, and with Imogen the night before that. That I was able to watch Immi, Zoe, and FROU FROU all in the same concert… I still can’t really believe it happened. The two of them are, for me, the most innovative musicians working today.
I traded messages with Sean Lake as the bus meandered its way towards Portland. “So I’ve got this wacky, probably ill-advised idea,” I typed, savoring the relative quiet of a vehicle I hadn’t expected to be quiet in the least. “I think I’m gonna try a Zoe Keating cover. On bass.”
Concerts have a way of doing that–it’s been a minute, but every time I’m fortunate enough to see Peter Mulvey perform, I come out of it convinced that TODAY is the day I’ll write a novel in 12 minutes, because INSPIRATION. I’d been trying to think of somewhat unusual songs I could learn and record, and an all-bass symphony certainly fit that bill.
I recorded the tracks in June, and have spent most of this month editing and mixing. The timing is still slightly wonky in some places, but I’ve managed to fix 95% of it.
I don’t have Zoe’s looping tech (and wouldn’t have her skill in using it if I did!), so all parts were played through as is. As far as I know, there isn’t tablature or sheet music available for her songs, so I transcribed entirely by ear. I ended up with about 7 pages that looked like this:
The recording is as faithful I could make it – there were some sections that I either couldn’t play, couldn’t transcribe, or the finished product sounded harsh. For those sections, I substituted guitar (all of which was improvised, but there isn’t much of it–it’s primarily a cello song, after all. That distorted riff you hear at 1:05 is actually a bass, not a guitar). All mistakes, obviously, are mine.
My thanks to Sean, who did a preliminary mix back in June, which gave me some excellent ideas about how to approach a project like this.
I’ve talked about the challenges of mixing and editing “Escape Artist” elsewhere. Because it’s been most of the month and other projects weren’t completed until this past weekend, I am unlocking to all Patron levels (not just $5 and up).
This is by far the most ambitious and complicated cover I’ve ever attempted; I hope I’ve done it justice.
Original artist: Zoe Keating
Guitars, mixing, and a LOT of bass tracks: Joseph Camann