NICK KEELING – QUEENSGATE (TORN LIGHT, 2020)

The neighborhood of Queensgate means little for the uninitiated, un-chili fed masses not living in the greatest Rust Belt city of all time – Cincinnati. For most Cincinnatians, the neighborhood of Queensgate means very little. It was once known as the Kenyon-Barr neighborhood of Cincinnati’s historic West End that was razed to the ground. Literally planned out of existence by a 1948 “urban renewal” plan. Today Queensgate is dominated by heavy industry, Cincinnati’s largest homeless shelter and, paradoxically, the most beautiful section of the Mill Creek that flows into the Ohio River.  

Queensgate is also the entrance and exit point to Cincinnati’s sprawling west side. As a Price Hill resident and classically trained pianist and experimental musician, Nick Keeling’s intimacy with the neighborhood is keenly felt in his tape titled Queensgate out on Torn Light Records. Keeling’s process involves recording his piano melodies, motifs and improvisations and through intricate use of tape loop delay, creating ghostly double images of these compositions until they become completely new and fascinating creatures. Washed out, warbled, unspooled and spectral – yet still maintaining a strong melodic core that does not evaporate the further it gets from the center. 

The deeper and more abstract these compositions get the more is left open for chance. Gorgeous connections happen as tonal passages begin piling atop each other – each one holding a melodic line in chrysalis before returning back to its center. 

In the building atop a pre-recorded cassette over and over again, perhaps there is something we can read into the neighborhood at the very outskirts of the central business district persisting despite several attempts at erasure. 

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