Posts Tagged ‘Dramatic’

2nd November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Not so long ago, I began a review by saying I felt sorry for Jo Quail. That was no slight on her musical output, but an observation that as incredible performer, it seemed wrong that she should be put on so early that her set was a third of the way through before the doors even opened. On listening to Exsolve, my awe of her musicianship is greater than ever, which only renders the injustice worse. To get the point: this is an incredible album, a triumph of musicianship and vision in tandem to create something not only greater than the sum of the parts, but beyond imagination.

The accompanying press release informs us that Exsolve is comprised of three tracks, with each one being broken down in to sections and movements across 45 minutes. Mastered by James Griffiths, himself a film composer, there is, the blurb notes, an almost symphonic quality to the album. This is true, but there is so, so much more, much of which defies conventional description: it speaks not to the domain of words, but the psyche.

The bald facts are that Jo Quail plays cello, and does so through a raft of effects to create sounds a million light years removed from the cello, looping bangs on the mic to create thunderous percussion and conjuring eerie moans and grating tempests of sound. The result is pretty heavy, not to mention intense.

Eight minutes into ‘Forge of Two Forms’, Quail is conjuring blistering interweaving prog riffs against a swirling backdrop of noise and thumping beats. Epic doesn’t come close. It sounds like a full band pushing into new realms of enormity, and with a blistering distorted picked motif that sounds like a crisply-executed lead guitar line, it’s easy to forget just how this music is made. Twelve minutes in, it’s tapered down to nothing and actually sounds like subdued, low-tempo orchestral dronings, creeping atmospherics and melancholy. The transitions are seamless, invisible, but definite as the extended soundworks transition between segments.

‘Mandrel Cantus’ sends sonar echoes across low, slow ripples of mellow cadences, and somehow builds into a monumental emulation of a guitar solo of monumental proportions. How did this happen? From whence did this immense sound emerge?

Everything coalesces on the third and final composition, ‘Causleens Wheel’ which begins delicately, builds to a rolling, roiling, sustained crescendo. It’s a multi-faceted composition, tonally rich and also moving, not just by force but by expression.

Powerful, graceful, compelling and dramatic, Exsolve is a remarkable album of rare quality.

AA

Jo Quail - Exsolve

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Sargent House – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Chelsea Wolfe is one of those artists who seems to continually grow with every release, and 2015’s Abyss was something special: a grand, powerful, and intense musical work that reached the parts other albums cannot reach. It’s fair to say that expectations for Hiss Spun were set high as a consequence.

As the accompanying blurb tells us, ‘the album was conceived as an emotional purge, a means of coming to terms with the tumult of the outside world by exploring the complexities of one’s inner unrest’.

Chelsea gets down to conveying this turmoil from the first bars: opener, ‘Spun’, is a throbbing deluge of dense, low-tempo, Godfleshy, bass-centric grind, a seething surge of low-end noise with an overloading, freewheeling lead guitar that’s not so much a solo as an out of control rollercoaster of fretwork that heaves and lurches every which way as if uncertain of its own direction but desperate to find a route to the end. ‘Particle Flux’ is also centred around a tectonic, subterranean low-end pulsation, and builds to a multi-layered, multi-faceted crescendo.

Single cut ’16 Psyche’ has the epic qualities of some of the strongest tracks from previous album Abyss – ‘Iron Moon’ in particular – and ‘The Culling’ repeats the trick of bursting into a crushingly powerful bloom from a quiet, delicate bud. But while nailing choruses of immense scale, these tracks also pound hard, sonically and emotionally.

Placing Hiss Spin side by side with Abyss is instructive: this latest work marks a considerable shift from the brooding industrial-edged gothic folk of its predecessor toward a much more metal-orientated sound that’s not only heavier and more abrasive, but more overtly challenging and confrontational. In fact, everything about Hiss Spun is more.

Following a heavy synth drone intro, ‘Vex’ brings blistering guitar dynamics and a shoegaze atmosphere to a twisted, reverb-soaked vocal that’s simultaneously emotion-rich and curiously detached. ‘Scrape’ draws the curtain with a dark, murky grind that’s as intense as it is dense, and Chelsea’s voice soars higher than ever, wracked with desperation. Thunderous tribal drumming blasts through the squalling guitars to render an imposing finale.

The production on Hiss Spun is immense. The percussion is enormous, every snare hit an explosion, every bass thump enough to trigger an earthquake or tsunami. Every beat, every note, strikes deep into the soul and drags at the deepest levels. To explain precisely how and why Hiss Spun resonates so deeply would be to ruin its magic: this is an album which connects subconsciously, subliminally, pulling as it does between fragility and fury, and with such stunning grace, and it drives, but as a slow pace.

Instrumentally, the dynamics are breathtaking. And never has Wolfe sounded so raw, by turns so fragile and so powerful, channelling emotions to utterly devastating and bewildering effect. Superlatives are inadequate: Hiss Spun is an album so strong as to be almost overwhelming and marks, my a mile, a new career high-point.

AAA

Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun Cover 3000x3000 300 dpi (1)