Jo Quail reissues the haunting Five Incantations album in a beautifully packaged set that’s a work of art in itself.
Release date: 20th November 2020
Label: Adderstone Records
Format: deluxe vinyl reissue
2020 will go down in history for many reasons. One of the less significant has seen us stepping up to the mark (or to the barrier) in reviewing cello albums. Raphael Weinroth-Browne’s World’s Within was one of our first posts of 2020; a musician who came to our attention as part of the Leprous live band producing a fine solo work.
Jo Quail has been on the radar for a while too. Her numerous collaborations across genres, not least of which has been with another genre-busting outfit Winterfylleth, shows the esteem in which she’s held. Artists and post-rockers who play on the dark side form a patient and orderly queue for her to add some chilling atmosphere to their work.
It has to be said though that it’s good to hear the instrument taking centre stage. We’re now treated to a reissue of Five Incantations. An album that Jo herself has talked of as being “a suite of interlinked movements, each individual yet essentially drawn from one theme…recorded and performed at 432hz. Each movement describes a personal reflection on one of the four cardinal points, with the fifth aspect being Spirit.’” Heady stuff.
The physical product is a work of art in itself. A double coloured vinyl and all the trimmings that explores the sounds of the instrument, taking it into places you can’t imagine. It’s probably an overworked phrase but look at her work as re-inventing the cello if you like. Not only in sound but also in look as Jo coaxes all manner of sound out of her highly distinctive instrument. It feels quite apt that such innovative and ungodly sounds emanate from such a wonderfully shaped instrument.
The heavy percussion sounds on White Salt Stag come punctuated by deft strokes before the cello comes to the fore with a demanding middle section. I’m picturing Agent Starling dashing through the Quantico woods during Silence Of The Lambs… There’s certainly a feeling of pursuit, the hunter and the hunted about the piece with its dramatically emphasised bursts.
A much more relaxing and calm ambience comes with The Breathing Hand. To these ears, perhaps the closest of the five tracks to a classical piece. Restful and soothing. Between Two Waves shifts from ‘hold your breath’ distant – some might say ambient industrial – and deep to almost discordant though the arrangements give plenty of space for the cello to explore, the boundaries are pushed to eleven and a half minutes on Gold. The heartbeat that underpins the opening acts as the frame on which the notes are weaved. Whatever the cello equivalent of guitar tricks like diveboming, are tested out before you;ve realises that the piece has started to build to a more intense finale. All the while retaining that buzzing rhtythm. It’s an entrancing closing piece.
Listen loud with the lights down. Don’t have nightmares now!
Listen to a live performance of The Breathing Hand here: