Mind-bendingly eerie and imaginative with every note, Jo Quail’s Exsolve is an exercise in submergence.
Forge – Of Two Forms
A lone, soft note begins this piece before it falls silent. Staggered crescendos and decrescendos of string instruments in discord start to build upon the eerie atmosphere, as a cello joins a staccato rhythm which, in turn, creates a sense of urgency. The lower contrasting tones alongside the introduction of the percussion bring a new sense of rhythm as the piece naturally continues to crescendo and decrescendo to fill you with a sense of unease. By breaking the mould of typical classical music, the melody transcends into a grungier and almost electric vibe as the staccato rhythmic cellos become the focus, causing you to feel the bow grip and rip across the strings. The sudden bursts of percussion and their lack of rhythm add a chaotic flavour while quickening the tempo and allowing tensions to rise. From here, the song welcomes the entrance of an electric guitar which almost feels expected at this point because of the way the track breaths. The melody continues to repeat itself until it reaches its climax with a sustained note, leaving the countermelodies of the strings to fade until we are met with the similar, eerie discord and rhythmic cello that we first heard at the beginning of the piece. This too is slowly stripped back by until a quiet, solo cello becomes the only focus – forcing the emotion of the piece to shift from the minor key. It is then joined by a counter melody until the dance between the two decrescendos gradually brings a close to the piece. Forge – Of Two Forms is a solemn source of unease and feels to be an ode to both loneliness and sadness.
Echoey percussion, which in a similar style to the previous song offers no constant sense of rhythm, begins as the short beats begin to be tucked away into an abyss. The faint sound of strings in discord with a glimpse of electric guitar, mirrors your heart beat as the strings begin to crescendo. A very short burst of tune by the electric guitar is over before it begins and then sinks back into the vein of the rhythm. The burst of electric guitar breaks through again, this time accompanied by the pizzicato of strings which crescendos as the guitar then falls back into its pattern. The dullness that comes with pizzicato adds a gentler timbre to the melody in contrast to the percussion and crunchy electric guitar that are driving the rhythm. The pizzicato comes to a stop as the electric guitar circulates back round and falls into the background, taking more of a rhythmic than melodic role. A distorted guitar gradually enters and before you even know it is there, crescendos to become the focus of the listener and seemingly creates a path for the electric guitar to immerse itself back into the foreground of the piece. The rhythmic guitar turns melodic, showcasing to the world everything that it is capable of bringing to the classical music genre. The melody becomes less complex, giving the impression that we are drawing to the climax of the piece. However, this never comes, and the music starts to wind down as the strings begin a descending scale, sounding like church bells as the tempo is forced to slow as the string begin to drag. Soon we are left with the echoing strings that gradually decrescendos to a halt.
The final track begins with strings so quiet you’re not even sure they are there, almost tentative of being heard until a solo violin starts its song. As with the previous pieces in this collection, the melody is in a minor key alluding to the feelings of sadness and weariness. The violin fades out bringing another with it, playing a countermelody. Whispers can be heard as the strings fade to a point that is barely audible until a cello is brave enough to make itself heard – swiftly being joined by others. They are soon drowned out by the eerie high strings that have been a staple across the collection, however, they too disappear while some linger as the cello’s melody re-joins. The music fades to nothing as it gives way to new and more complex, solo melody. This legato melody separates this piece from the staccato melodies and countermelodies found in the previous two. Countermelodies slowly begin to form, producing a silkier texture to the piece. A sudden crescendo forces the cello into focus, swiftly fading to give way to a distorted sounding electric guitar. On the second repeat of this phrase, a woman’s voice can be heard gently ‘ooing’ before the electric guitar one again crashes through like thunder. As a slight variation of the eerie melody that was the focus of the first piece, the crescendos and decrescendo flux until the music unexpectedly climaxes with the electric guitar and percussion at the helm. A woman’s voice can be heard echoing in the background throughout. The different repetitive rhythms created by each part produces a feel of chaos until the last note hangs in the air before dropping to silence.
As a lover of both classical and rock music, this creative blend of classical and electric instruments makes me very excited. This group of pieces have an undeniably eerie atmosphere and could easily be included in the score of any thriller or horror movie, which not always my cup of tea. Classical pieces are typically at least double the length of your typical pop or grime song that is in the charts and with Jo Quail’s release it constantly changes to allow you to fully submerge yourself in the imagery the instrument makes. I enjoyed every one of these pieces and writing about them challenged me to delve deep into the importance of every single part, which is something that can easily be taken for granted. I can’t wait to see how Jo Quail will continue to experiment with the boundaries of genres further.
(P.S. If I got any of the instruments wrong, I am very sorry. It has been a while since I’ve been required to analyse any classical pieces!)