Review by: Claudia Black
Photography by: Claudia Black
”On a rainy Tuesday night along with many others I make my way to the Tufnell Park Dome to see Jo Quail for the second time within a month but this time supporting Danish band Myrkur. This time though I was taking photos for this review and was not just a punter like last time. There was no photo pit which was a pain so I had to impose myself on the people who had already settled on a spot by the stage and ask them to move for 3 songs. This they did willingly but it meant that my photos were mainly from one angle. I could have pushed my way through the crowd to get other shots for either side of the stage but that would have meant time wasted so I stood where I was and made do with that angle. Not a lot of scope for variety doing that and the lights were pretty bright, but you work with the conditions that present themselves!!
Jo Quail quietly came onto the stage, one moment the stage was empty and the next, there she was like an apparition forming out of mist, she set up her cello, did some tuning before commencing her set to an appreciative crowd. First up was White Salt Stag, a piece of music that starts out with Jo tapping out a beat on the frame of the cello that is sampled and looped. It’s a piece of music that is as enigmatic as the artist. The performance has me absorbed into it with an intensity only surpassed I think by Jo herself! I had a look into the crowd and they were standing there just as attentive, just as engrossed! Gold is the second track tonight. There is something pure and sensual about this track, it has a thoughtful tone suffused with longing! Longing for what you ask? Have a listen!! And whilst you listen stand in amongst the trees!! As I have alluded to elsewhere I only discovered Jo Quail a month ago and in the month that followed I’ve become hooked!! Visually and aurally engaging, intellectual without being overbearing and the sort of thing that had me walking around my flat the following day with Mandrel Cantus playing on a loop inside my head. Never forced and always welcome whatever I did!! I do have lots of questions to ask Jo about her music and inspirations but not asking fuels my imagination and maintains the air of intrigue and fascination! The finale to tonight’s set is The Adder Stone. Another track loaded with textures, airiness. There is lots of space in Jo quails music, it breathes, the listener is not confronted with aural clutter played with such close proximity that one sound blends into another or is not heard at all. Things flow here and the spaces/silences have as much relevance and as much significance as the loops and bowing!! I can smell the salty wind in the Adder Stone, I can feel the wind tying my hair in knots and pebbles pushing through my boots!! I feel the joy in this space and the power it invokes in me!! I am become me!!
Dressed in Black and with a Wool Stole nestled on the shoulders Myrkur front woman Amalie Bruun takes to the stage like a Volva gracefully taking her place between a grove of leafless trees. She is a sight to behold, blonde haired and blue eyed, I can imagine a time long ago when Vikings walked the earth where a woman like Amalie would have been looked upon with fear and awe!!
Bonden og kragen starts off the proceedings tonight, a light and airy track with vocals that float like gossamer in a breeze. This is the B side to the single Juniper which has an interesting video of Amalie interspersed with a small girl holding dead animals! I’ve no idea what the song is about but my best guess so far after a few listens is that it’s saying ”death is nothing to be scared of, it is a beautiful thing for the most part” Most of the first part of this set is made up of folksy tracks accompanied by a sheep skin hand drum. Jo Quail provides some accompaniment on cello along with a fiddle, guitar and backing singers. The second part of the set is made up of tracks from the recent album Mareridt. I love The Serpent, it is an epic track with lots of tension ending with a few tinkles of the piano. Next up is Ulvinde (She wolf). This has a very linear feel to it, the guitars along with the vocal lift you up and carry you along whilst the guttural vocal and screeches impart an air of menace and warning before the genteel vocal returns. ”I am a harmless dog, don’t wake the wolf in me!!” Maneblot (Moon Sacrifice), the penultimate track I like a lot, black metal blast beats and urgency tempered by the clean airy vocals that give the illusion of moonlight illuminating the dark!! The aforementioned Juniper the last track of the evening is a ballad that feels very watery with the vocal and black metal when the chorus is sung!! When I say watery I do not mean bland, I mean that the vocal is very clipped in places and icy and flows around the guitars as if they were rocks in a river.
Both artists tonight have stimulated imagery in my mind and they have done that by both being creative with space, light and dark textures. They both have kept my attention for the whole evening and without being forceful have embedded their Hugr within my being.”
Bonden Og Skagen
Flickan Gar På Golvet
Himlen Blev Sort
Solo with Nyckelharpa
Dybt I Skoven
Jeg Er Guden
Skogen Skulle Do
White Salt Stag