Posts Tagged ‘T. E. Morris & Jo Quail’

24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For the Benefit of All represents the coming together of two artists whom the descriptor ‘visionary’ isn’t really hyperbole: having led Her Name is Calla through a decade-long career of turbulence which produced a catalogue of truly definitive, landmark releases in the field of post-rock which pushed the boundaries of the genre in myriad directions, as well as forging a solo career as a minor-key acoustic troubadour T.E. Morris’ cult status is based on his creative singularity. Meanwhile, Jo Quail has very much created her own niche, bringing the cello to a whole new audience with her tempestuous compositions that are far more rock than classical, turning her instrument of choice from an orchestral element to a full band and more courtesy of her innovative playing techniques and judicious use of effects (admittedly a bloody huge bank of effects).

As the press release outlines, For the Benefit of All was inspired by, and was originally intended to be performed within, Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9 panoramic exhibition at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, but was cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

As such For the Benefit of All is essentially a soundtrack work, but also a narrative work, which plots the trajectory of a mission to Mars. It’s a sci-fi hybrid that tells of a future based on true events past and present, and more than this, it’s a reflection on time and space. With the original project plans put paid by the COVID-19 pandemic, they elected to continue work remotely and release the music as a standalone work, and it succeeds – although it does work best with an understanding of the context, because an abstract ambient work without context is simply one more abstract ambient work. In context, it’s very much a departure for both artists, devoid of climaxes and crescendos, instead focusing on the recreation of the emptiness of space, where movement is slow, and the immediate surroundings are filled with vast expanses of nothing.

In many mays, it also stands as a metaphor for the circumstances of its creation: we’re all together apart, distant, separate, isolated however adept we are at calling, Zooming, or meeting in the street. We are all floating in space, just out of reach, and sometimes two metres may be two thousand miles. And we’re not built for this.

The chapters contained within the booklet which accompany the compositions provide a textual narrative which adds to the substance of the work. The track titles, meanwhile, signify dates on the journey, from the significant 1972 ‘(A map from Mariner 9)’ which was the first vehicle to orbit another planet and successfully returned over 7,000 images from the enigmatic red planet, to the futuristic dates projected for colonisation. Going further back, 1610 relates to Galileo, the polymath from Pisa, the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes, and his viewing the red planet through the newly-invented ‘spyglass’.

The majority of the music is quiet, spacious, minimal, and while the plot includes raging global and galactic wars, the soundtrack is more given to creating the sense of distance, of isolation, of… space. The emptiness. The void. The tranquillity. The absence of atmosphere.

A hushed rapidfire beat flickers like a palpating heartbeat beneath the barely-there ripplings of the penultimate piece, ‘2212 (We Had it in Our Hands the Whole Time)’ and while it’s still subtle, it’s dramatic in its effect, and the rising tension is palpable.

The final section, ‘2452’ leaves us with both a cliffhanger and a sad sense of emptiness at the end of an expansive and exquisitely delicate album that often belies the violence, turbulence, and often bleak reflection on humankind that it soundtracks.

AA

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