Since the release of her previous album ‘Five Incantations’ in 2016, internationally acclaimed composer and virtuoso cellist Jo Quail has been touring extensively across Europe performing alongside the likes of Boris, Amenra, Caspian, Myrkur and Winterfylleth. Festival performances this year include ArcTanGent, WGT, Dunk! and Tramlines Festival, and two separate concerts at the invitation of Robert Smith for his curation of the Southbank’s Meltdown Festival.
Jo’s new album ‘Exsolve’, recorded with Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios (Electric Wizard, Primordial, Witchsorrow, Conan), will be released on 2nd November. Watch the trailer with an excerpt of the track ‘Mandrel Cantus’ here:
The initial ideas for ‘Exsolve’ were formed following an invitation to perform at the Arp Museum in Bonn, to celebrate the Barbara Hepworth ‘Sculpture for a Modern World’ exhibition (previously at the Tate Modern). Jo comments, ‘as well as my standard concert repertoire from my previous three albums I wanted to write and perform something specifically to honour these beautiful works. I wrote a piece for solo cello called ‘Single Form’ which explored the cello physically, using the extensive pitch range and then creating a sonic ‘hole’ literally by handshape and position on the neck, mirroring the curves and spaces in Hepworth’s work.’
While ‘Single Form’ doesn’t appear on the new album, the writing process behind it went on to inform and help mould all the pieces on ‘Exsolve’. Jo adds, ‘there are many aspects of Barbara Hepworth’s life and works that inspired the early creative stage of this album. She talked of the left hand ‘seeing’ and the right hand then carving, and I found this analogy greatly inspiring. I wanted to explore what it actually feels like physically to play cello and at the same time I wanted to write something ambitious, brave and proud, something that pushes beyond what I had done before in terms of live looping, yet something that has the weight and certainty of a monolith for want of a better term!’
Since commencing her solo career in 2010, Jo has released three albums, three EPs and a live DVD. Following her 2015 European tour with post-rock giants Caspian Jo has embedded herself in the world of left-field and heavy music, whilst continuing to perform within the contemporary and avant-garde spheres. Not only did she open for black-metal artist Myrkur but Jo joined her on stage as part of her Folkesange project as well as collaborating with the likes of A-Sun Amissa, Mono’s Takaakira ‘Taka’ Goto, Eraldo Bernocchi and FM Einheit (Einsturzende Neubauten). Jo has performed several concerts of her works arranged for electric cello, orchestral ensembles and choirs both at home in the UK, in Europe and in Australia where she tours on a yearly basis.
“Exsolve’ is comprised of 3 tracks, with each one being broken down in to sections and movements across 45 minutes. Mastered by James Griffiths, himself a film composer, there is an almost symphonic quality to the album.
‘Exsolve’ has been an unique process in both writing and recording terms for Jo who states, ‘what made the writing process so different for me was the sense that every single note was being sculpted, created, forged by hand somehow. It was not a ‘struggle’ but it was a clear process with a lot of very detailed attention to individual sounds; in some cases the sounds themselves built the pieces rather than a melodic structure requiring an extra heft of percussion. For example the tribal toms at the end of ‘Causleen’s Wheel’ were created and set down before the front end of the piece was written…but as with my other pieces, the whole work relates back and forwards, and is built from the same motif throughout.’
With recording ‘Exsolve’ Jo decided to try something different and set out working with Chris Fielding, known more for his work with metal bands such as Conan, Electric Wizard and Witchsorrow at Sky Hammer Studio. Jo describes this as, ‘an incredible experience. Chris is really on it as a producer, and had no issue with my method of writing from a loop perspective, and dealing with all the various motifs that appear and withdraw throughout the compositions. Pretty much everything was reamped live, which brings the depth to the sound. Chris is very patient and equally very creative, so we were able to take my existing sounds and make them somehow 3 dimensional for the record. In places where I was less convinced of my sound choices Chris was able to advise and to bring different factors in too, experimenting with different heads and amps for reamping, or suggesting various techniques he employs in other genres of music to help to realise what I had in my head.’
Having had special guests on her albums in the past Jo brought in Dan Capp (Winterfylleth), Nik Sampson guitar (Devilment, Prolapse A.D.) and Lucie Dehli to contribute and collaborate on this record adding, ‘they are all very good friends of mine and all musicians I admire so greatly, so it was a pleasure to give the tracks to them and see where they went. I gave them no direction, just the tracks as they were, and this is the result. I wanted to create a sound world that my guests could come and place their sculptures on, to continue the analogy.’
‘Exsolve’ is a snapshot in time of these 3 pieces and with every live performance Jo looks to develop them further. As Jo concludes ‘For me, the final record is usually only the starting point of the journey and over time and with each performance the music will morph and be reshaped – composing and performing is a collaborative process between me, the space and the audience’.
1) Forge – Of Two Forms
2) Mandrel Cantus
3) Causleen’s Wheel
Pre-orders will be announced soon and a vinyl version of the album with an additional track will follow early next year.
Jo Quail will be heading out on two European tours to support the release opening for Mono and A Storm of Light in October followed by Myrkur in December.
European tour w/ Mono & A Storm of Light