Progressive rock gets a bad name, perhaps deservedly so, for being a bit formulaic and pretentious. Nevertheless I do get, I think, that those who are into it like it because of the trance elements. The stereotype fan, I guess, would be the middle class white bearded bespectacled near to retirement ale supping jumper and mac wearing toe tapping just into his sixties listening to Pink Floyd on his headphones before he goes to bed something. I like trance music myself though I have tended towards Underworld, Stereolab or New Order, rather than Mike Oldfield, Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree.
So if I were to tell you that Jo Quail is offering up a serving of progressive rock for 2020, you might initially recoil. Uh, not more tubular bells!? Well, there is a tinge of Tubular Bells to Quail’s sound, but really, Quail’s music has been quite a revelation. Her music is the freshest, spookiest and most creative variety of progressive rock that I have heard. She takes the genre into fresh waters, away from the stereotype.
Her sound is often foreboding, with dagger like guitar riffs and slow thumping bass beats. Her cello strings create the musical narrative. The effect is haunting and spooky and sometimes coruscating, eerie notes scrape your soul clean from the inside. And yet the music, because it retains the trance like qualities of progressive rock, is also soothing, it ought be played loud. And yet, and still, there’s something more. The music sometimes breaks down, it becomes avant-guard, abstractionist, industrial, jazz-like even and at times utterly captivating.
In sum then, Jo Quail is delving into an unexplored space between classical music and progressive rock. It might be that others have done it, but I’ve never heard it done with such creativity and freshness. The music Quail creates with the cello, and it often sounds like there’s more than one string instrument at work, are sophisticated and nuanced.
Jo Quail will be re-releasing a new album Five Incantations on the 20th November, which as the title does not suggest, contains six tracks, all of which take you over five or ten minutes. The album was originally released in 2016.
Jo Quail is planning to play the album live in Camden, the day before she releases the album.
Generally speaking, I hate gigs, especially when you have to stand all the time (I get back ache and knee pains), and its such a drag getting to and from the venue. But I’d probably make an exception if Jo Quail was coming my way – there’s nothing like and to my knowledge, there has been nothing quite like the music of Jo Quail.
Deborah Finamore reviewed Jo’s show in Bristol in 2019. Deborah described Jo’s set as precise, fluid and enamouring the audience throughout. The thud of the cello’s heartbeat reverberated through every person present’s chest. Quail’s eyes were closed throughout the majority of her performance, her stage presence was minimal, and her interaction with the audience was described as awkward but warm. Deborah felt that Jo’s performance was ‘insular’, she added ‘we are just spectators observing her feel her way through her creations’.