What makes something progressive rock? You might recognize that a song or album is progressive rock, but are you able to define it? Many would say it’s not commercial music, but the likes of Pink Floyd and Genesis suggests that it can be. You might say that it is music that draws from a variety of other musical forms, but many other styles do that too. Bill Bruford once pointed out that all music is hybrid. Some have argued that being influenced by classical music is a fair definition, but Bee Bumble and The Stingers did that and they are rarely considered prog rock. Quite often sounding like Yes and/or Genesis seems to suffice and there are some on the prog rock scene who still judge artists by this definition. But that is not what makes something a definitive description. Trying to find a definition that touches all bases is probably impossible.
Jo Quail is a cellist who manages to straddle many genres. Her influences come from many sources, musically from both the classical world but also the heavy rock world and ambient. She also cites non-musical inspiration too, from the landscape, from the art world also. This leads to an interesting approach to music, and the out coming sound is not easy to define. Her music is loop based, avant-garde, atmospheric and as hard to place stylistically, as it should be. Some might find it atmospheric, others might plump for post-metal. They’d both be right. She plays an electric cello, which lends the music some of its uniqueness that is both colourful and characterful. You’re as likely to see her a bill with heavy metal acts as you are in the concert hall. Besides her own music, she also contributes to the work of others.
Exsolve, Quail’s most recent and fourth album, was released in November 2018. It is a collection of three tracks that display her music talents to the full. Also featured on a couple of (separate) tracks are guitarists Dan Capp and Nik Sampson and by vocalist Lucie Dehli on the final track. At times it is a quite intense listen, at others gentler and more distinctively moody. The second track, Mandrel Cantus, is possibly the most intriguing of the three as it weaves its colours in the mind. It tends to be more propulsive than the other tracks and is a powerful piece. It is a well-produced album too, as it really needs to be to be fitting, and so a shout-out should go to engineer and producer Chris Fielding. Once in a while, Robert Fripp in Soundscapes mode might be a fellow traveller musically.
Jo Quail is quite a distinctive musician then whose work is starting to be noticed it the prog rock world. Indeed, Prog magazine has nominated her for its Limelight award in 2019. It is prog if you don’t mind the dark ambient, neo-classical, post rock, and contemporary bits!
Forge – Of Two Forms 17:49
Mandrel Cantus 11:22
Causleen’s Wheel 15:25
Composed By, Performer – Jo Quail
Engineer, Producer – Chris Fielding
Guitar – Dan Capp (track 1)
Guitar – Nik Sampson (track 2)
Vocals – Lucie Dehli (track 3)
Label: Self released
2nd November 2018
Compact Disc (CD) + Digital Album