Following seven exciting and successful years as a band, SonVer will now make way for our individual musical projects. On behalf of Ben, Al and Ruban, I would like thank you all for your continued support over the years.
From the early days of SonVer's duo lineup, to the ambitious audio visual Alchemy of Man tour in 2009 we have been continuously thankful for your support and have been inspired by your enthusiasm. I hope you will continue to enjoy our various musical ventures as we all move on.
With love, Jo x
This is the site for my solo project, with tour dates, videos and information available. This began as SOLO SONVER SHOWS and is now continuing under my own name Jo Quail., My new album 'From The Sea' is now available through my website www.joquail.co.uk .
You can find news of Al and Ruban here:
Ben's project This is Radio Silence can be accessed here
BiographyThe core of London-based instrumental group SonVer is cellist and composer Jo Quail. The music of SonVer, whether performed on solo cello or with a full band, presents a complex path from meditative ambience to dark brooding urgency; live looping and layers combine atonality with rich orchestration, deft percussion and several unusual instruments often added to create the majestic soundscapes.
Joanna formed SonVer formed in November 2003, writing 'Until The Stones Melt', a 9-minute cinematic soundscape with guitarist Ben McLees.
The duo continued writing, and recorded SonVer's eponymous debut during the first half of 2005, which would be released on Disconnected Music in the November of that year.
SonVer's live shows at the time incorporated visuals by Simon Bryant, the largely monochrome, slow-motion films perfectly complementing SonVer's evocative music.
During 2006, SonVer's presence on the live scene grew. In addition to several shows at London's legendary The Spitz venue, SonVer also performed at WGT Festival in Germany, Ashton Court Festival in Bristol and a year-ending headline set at Teviot Underground in Edinburgh.
2007 began with the release of the 4-track 'Vigil' EP, which showcased the elegaic side of SonVer alongside an incendary live version of 'Khat Show Host', still a live favourite to this day.
During the summer of 2007. SonVer expanded to a 4-piece, with the addition of drummer Alistair Ricardson and guitarist Ruban Byrne.
Following the live debut of the new line-up at The Luminaire, SonVer closed 2007 with a memorable show at The Union Chapel in London.
2008 began with a gig in Lisbon [Portugal], co-inciding with the release of the limited edition 'Music Box' EP [also featuring Rose McDowall and Naevus], which included two otherwise-unavailable SonVer tracks.
May 2008 saw the release of a new SonVer EP. Entitled '3 Songs', the new release came in the form of a collaboration with Belgian group Elephant Leaf. Named 'single of the week' by influencial music magazine Organ, the EP was launched at a second show at The Union Chapel, which saw Elephant Leaf vocalist Lucie Dehli join SonVer for a finale of 'Safety In Numbness', the closing track on '3 Songs'.
During the summer, SonVer teamed up with Ed Simpson of Lautrec to perform an AV/live soundtrack set during the festival season. Entitled '2001: A Space Dub Odyssey', the set was performed to packed film/cinema tents at both Latitude and Green Man Festivals in the UK.
In November 2008, SonVer released second album 'Luz del Abyss', supported by a live show in Leige [Belgium] and a third appearance at The Union Chapel in London.
During 2009, the group conceived and produced an AV show entitled 'Alchemy Of Man', which involved seven film makers from across Europe, each producing bespoke films to which SonVer tracks were performed. (More details of this show can be found on the AoM Project page).
Live dates for 2009 included a well-received return to the WGT Festival in Leipzig and Latitude Festival in the UK, and closed with two AoM sets at Dunk! Festival in Belgium and Bath Film Festival featuring Will Connor on percussion.
Jo toured Australia, New Zealand and Japan in January and February 2010 with a solo SonVer show featuring new compositions. In July 2010 StringCaesar, a film starring Derek Jacobi and Alice Krige, with music scored and performed by SonVer, was premiered in South Africa in Cape Town and Joburg.
ReviewsIt has to be said that the visual aspects of The Alchemy Of Man are rather lost tonight, due to the physical constraints of the Bar & Co. boat’s performance space...so it’s pretty much impossible to watch the band and the films at the same time. What can easily be appreciated, though, is the masterly interaction going on between the skilled musicians playing...who constantly look to each other for cues and signals as they improvise their way through the set. Jo takes centre stage with her skeleton-framed electric cello, framed by a sweeping array of effect pedals which transmute the cello’s notes into otherworldly washes of sound. Ben switches between guitar and bass, and Will Connor conjures rhythms from a vast range of objects ranging from conventional rock drums through ethnic hand drums and bells to wok lids, rattles and novelty whistles. One song even builds on a reverberating looped rhythm generated by Jo beating her cello stand with a hairbrush. SonVer’s music is experimental but never gimmicky, richly textured and deeply moving. Hearing it on recordings is fine, but being privileged enough to witness it being created in real time is something very special.'
Review of Audio Visual show 'The Alchemy of Man' by Simon Drengskap of Heathen Harvest Magazine
"...seeing the band play live is an energising and life-affirming experience."
Judas Kiss Magazine
"Album of the Month"
".. music that runs a gauntlet of feelings... eerie...triumphant...hypnotic...haunted... Ebusus is majestic and proud..."
""SonVer are a radiant experience, warmly crafted pieces of instrumental post-rock, classically ambient, organic, alive – cinematic soundscapes that gently flow around embracing cello, slow-motion guitars, considered understated bass, drums and effects. A slow motion that’s always on the edge of some dramatic outburst, never that obvious though, things build in a more restrained way, cleverly constructed and really far too artistically accomplished to just be tossed in to the post-rock pot – this is a lot more than another post-rock album. SonVer are a London based four piece who bridge the twin worlds of classical music and rock music with a refined natural unforced ease, this is something that just feels instinctively right, something they just naturally do. Soothing pieces, inviting relaxing pieces, beautifully played, and produced with just the right amount of organic feel – recordings that are alive. Simple pieces, glowing – clearly they aren’t simple, there’s an intelligent complexity here, the work feels simple though, almost ambient, less is more, wonderfully relaxing – church-quiet and spiritual, a classic 4AD quality, some of the eerie magic of Dead Can Dance, quietly triumphant, music that glows, highly recomended"
Review of 'Luz del Abyss', taken from Organ Magazine, December 2008
"UK quartet SonVer (cello, guitars, drums, and bass) and Belgium outfit Elephant Leaf (a quartet fronted by vocalist and violinist Lucie Dehli) blend so seamlessly on this three-song collaboration, one would guess they're a single unit (it's not unusual for today's bands to work entirely via file sharing, but in this case the material sounds so natural it's still hard to believe they completed the project without ever meeting). That 3 Songs sounds so cohesive is no doubt due in part to the unsettling ambiance that persists throughout. Structurally, the eighteen-minute EP bookends two SonVer pieces with one by Belgium outfit Elephant Leaf, with each group contributing to the other's material.
An eerie ambient setting, "Gomera" begins by melding swooping string tones with atmospheric noises from a field recording made on the beach in La Gomera in the Canary Islands , and the piece's haunted character only intensifies when the entranced vocals appear. That haunted quality carries over into "Love is Where You Make It, Love is Where You Are" though this time it's possible to decipher the words Lucie Dehli utters in her hushed vocal and a stronger rhythm dimension moves to the fore alongside the violin, piano, and cello playing. "Safety in Numbness" moves the EP closest to conventional song form, with Dehli's voice more clearly heard than before. The song begins in curdling trip-hop mode (comparisons to Portishead are well nigh unavoidable when her emotive delivery is so slinkily coiled around the simmering groove) but, three-quarters in, the skies open to let smoldering guitars work their incinerating magic on the serpentine pulse and bring the eight-minute epic to a powerful close. The high quality of the groups' emotive soundscapes suggests that perhaps they should consider turning their joint venture into a permanent arrangement. " September 2008
Review of '3 Songs', taken from Textura, Canada
" 'Gomera' is groaning organic sounds, like a moon landscape documentary with mumbling female vocals and no Clangers, gradually stabilising as a smear of morose ambient. 'Love Is Where You Make It, Love Is Where You Are' could well be the sort of music jazz-fuelled winebars and modern museums play or make for themselves in the early hours of the morning, although nobody will know unless you secrete recorders in these buildings to retrieve later and they're wise to such tricks ("we don't need no steenken' 'installations'!") Or, to put it another way, it's slow motion early Morcheeba. Sonver emerge as the more interesting of the two artists as the slow build of the anti-Portishead 'Safety In Numbness', airy and saccharine sweet, pretty and warm, seemingly inconsequential until they turn on an electron and a guitar whirls through, disembowelling the modest but grand mood neatly. And fade.... Bit weird, but in all the right ways."
Review of '3 Songs', taken from Mick Mercer's 'The Mick'.
"Now this is something rather special, came out back at the end of May, a three track seventeen-and-a-half-minute collaboration between the usually instrumental sound art/post rock band from the UK called SonVer and the glowing minimalist experimental outfit from Belgium known as Elephant Leaf. Three extremely beautiful, minimal, simple yet deliciously complex pieces that glow in to life via Lucie Dehli's vivid vibrant voice. Lucie really does bring it all to life, her voice is radiant, a lazy comparison would be somewhere near a far more soothing silky Bjork. The three tracks and the sounds therein fit together so so well; pulsing ambience, quiet minimal strength, glowing tension, wondering resonance, beautifully precise detail, hypnotic warmth, radiant colour – a comforting dramatic, quiet, soothing and powerfully naked experimental masterpiece, safety in the rewarding drama of the numbness. Beautiful. Single of the week."
Review of '3 Songs', taken from Organ Magazine, July 2008.
"When gathered with family members in your home projection room for an evening of art movies from the early 20th century, have you ever hankered after some appropriate music to complete the atmosphere? It's a conundrum, for sure. The solution might come in the form of the eponymous debut album on their own Disconnected label by SonVer. Drifting like mist on the river, booming like ships that collide in the night, as plangent as rain on glass, and sometimes as harshly implacable as waves against the sea wall, SonVer's music melds cello, guitar, effects and samples (plus, on 'The Bell Tower', shifting tides of treated trumpet) with nimble grace and otherworldly effect. More than just another ethereal project, this is, dare I say it, real music. I've heard so much stuff in this general area which sounds rather uncomfortably like someone holding down a synth preset while boosting the reverb, and loftily calling the resulting noise 'ambient', that it's a pleasure to hear a collection of pieces - like 'Transparent Arms', with its hints at rhythm, and 'Khat Show Host', a hot night in Morocco created right there in your living room - that have real ideas behind them. Cinematic and sweeping, yet detailed to the nth degree, SonVer will hit the spot even if you normally run a mile at the first hint of ambience. And I'll tell you this: Un Chein Andalou will never seem the same again."
Review of 'SonVer', taken from Nemesis To Go magazine, Issue 2
"Listening to SonVer is akin to stepping through an aural modern art gallery..."
Mellifua.com December 2006
"The London duo SonVer started. A mixture of structured ambient and post rock were presented with guitar and cello. Slight similarities to Sigur Ros and Godspeed! were noticable, but also to the soundtrack 'Aktivitaeten' from David Holmes (eg.Code 46). The sensitive melodies managed to convince the bound audience which sent the band on their way with a long applause."
Review of SonVer's live show in Leipzig, Germany. Taken from www.feindesland.de [roughly translated from German]
Sonver -Sonver (Disconnected) "SonVer (yes that's how they spell it) are Joanna Quail and Ben McLees. She plays cello, he plays guitar, they both do funny things with computers and they've played the Royal Albert Hall, apparently, which is frankly more impressive than anything I've ever done. In their publicity picture they look well moody. This, their debut album, is a dense atmospheric, instrumental affair, using layer upon layer of gloomy acoustic and electric cello, chiming guitar, deft touches of electronica and the occasional skittery beat to conjure up images of dark forests and half-remembered nightmares. Sometimes abstract, atonal or ambient, always weirdly unsettling, the music at times recalls, the spooky bits in A Silver Mt Zion/Godspeed... tracks, and at others captures that instinctive sense of wrongness in Aphex Twin's ambient stuff. There are touches of baroque and celtic, and moments of transcendental wonder, like when "Last Thursday" bursts forth into peals of jubilant melodic noise and you know that it's doing that post rock thing of wiring directly into your emotional centres in a way that no skinny kid with an acoustic guitar ever could. This is an accomplished, enthralling and occasionally startling album. Go sit somewhere spooky, dim the lights, stick it on, and give yourself a weird-on."
www.diskant.net, May 2006
Sonver - s/t (Disconnected) Following on from their self released EP earlier this year, Sonver return with their first full length album. Lending heavily on the material from the original EP, these tracks are sandwiched by some new material which provides an exciting new progression in Sonver's sound. The record still drips with cinematic soundscapes that flow and combine the orchestral with the electronic, including samples and drum beats. But over the longer format there has been more room to experiment with different textures and it is these contrast that come to the fore. Where 'Anonima' is a lush melodic piece that is as warm and comforting as it is disconcerting, 'Last Thursday' crashes onto the scene will all the bowed pomp and splendour of a Bond theme tune. Howling guitar distortion is fed through a multitude of effects and production to lurk as a malevolent under current. There seems to be a fluid theme running through the whole album with the watery sounding guitars of 'Viaje' wobbling through the speakers. This is interrupted by the lo-fi loops of feedback and distortion in 'Procession' which is very much in the experimental mould, ebbing and building over a plucked string mantra with a deftness that the Dr Who sound effects department could only dream of. For all their genre-breaking and cross pollination of sound and vision techniques, Sonver remain immensely listenable. And it is this which is perhaps their greatest accomplishment.
Taken from www.tastyfanzine.org, December 2005
Sonver - ep#2 "There must be something in the water this month as yet another lo-fi instrumental gem passes over the tasty gramophone. Sonver describe their art as 'Sound Sculptures', a concise description of the mix of strings arrangements and guitar with occasional percussion that washes across the speakers. This is perfect soundtrack material and that is exactly what Sonver have been doing, collaborating with film makers and visual artists to produce multi media live performances. 'Transparent Arms' introduces sub-continental scales over bass-rich break beats and more disembodied percussion to further disorientate your average NME reader. Engaging yet not intrusive, this won't be appearing on CD:UK. But this is music which ploughs its own furrow, zigging between genres and zagging through pigeon holes."
Taken from www.tastyfanzine.org, April 2005
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