Jo Quail ‘Exsolve’ Review

A dark symphonic lullaby 8/10Jo Quail 1

Internationally acclaimed virtuoso cellist and composer Jo Quail, will be releasing her forthcoming album ‘Exsolve’ on November 2nd; expanding on her previously released thee EP’s and a live DVD. Recorded by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios (Electric Wizard, Primordial, Witchsorrow, Conan), this is a truly accomplished voyage into symphonic industrial instrumentals. The work has been mastered by film composer James Griffiths, which elevates these haunting pieces to an epic scale that would not be out of place in a blockbuster soundtrack. This is a masterclass in accessible avant-garde.

For those unfamiliar with her work, Jo plays electric cello enhanced with a looping station and effects which demonstrates the versatility of what might be perceived as a staid, bowed stringed instrument. Jo Quail metamorphoses such prejudices in a manner that appeals to a varied audience. Classically trained, but with a penchant for the left-field, she commenced her new direction accompanying one half of goth-pop 80’s icons Rose McDowall of Strawberry Switchblade. She has opened for black-metal artist Myrkur ( and joined her on stage as part of the 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). You can currently catch Jo Quail on tour with Mono and A Storm of Light.

Exsolve comprises of 3 tracks, with each one being broken down in to sections and movements across 45 minutes.

Opening with atmospheric, discordant strings we enter into the ambient and melodic Forge of Two Forms. Otherworldly and rhythmical with its crashing waves of symphonic strings and disconcerting percussion, before soaring progressively higher. Plaintive strings, unsettle but bring about a sense of unexpected calm.

Mandrel Cantus is a glorious odyssey commencing with disconcerting percussion which builds organically into a primal and industrial progressive rock climax of majestic proportions. Gently you are grounded back on earth as the track pares back to haunting strings, leaving you teetering on a precipice with joy.   Jo herself describes the piece as

‘ a track that’s been evolving over a long period of time, and continues to morph each time I perform it live. I started with abstract percussion, in fact I built a whole new armoury of sounds for this track, and these themselves helped inform the direction of the music as I continue/ed to work on it.
… I wanted to make a pathway through the percussive labyrinth that resolves and opens powerfully in a physical sense, but dissolves to leave just the spiritual essence of the whole music with the modal C cantus at the end. I’m doing things I’ve never done before in terms of how my loop station is set up, and the sound modelling too, and as such I’m really excited every time I play this track, though it’s a potential minefield to navigate!’

Causleen’s Wheel ends this opus in a melancholy symphony which lulls the listener into a false sense of security, while reminding you to remain alert. The gentle transformation of strings to a gothic influenced crescendo is inspired.

This work has been described as a snapshot in the evolution of these pieces, the artist has stated

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’.

This is an instrumental and moving body of dark lullabies, of pleasant dreams riding a dragon in flight.
This should appeal to fans of the dark and otherworldly as well as those who favour more classic and progressive genres.


1) Forge – Of Two Forms
2) Mandrel Cantus
3) Causleen’s Wheel

The album is available for pre-order  now – and a vinyl version of the album with an additional track will follow early next year.

Jo Quail is currently on tour with Mono and A Storm of Light to support this release and will continue to tour with Myrkur in December.

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