The cellist Josef Klíč, concert master of the Janáček Theatre in Brno, is close to classical music as well as underground, works together with poets and wrote several essential compositions exploring the border between contemporary and alternative music. His new solo album, Josef Klíč & His One Man Cello Squad, contains songs without words, which is, as Klíč pointed out in an interview last year for our server, a form that "existed already in the Renaissance times". And he explains: "A song without words is a composition that you can put your own lyrics into. It has a melody and you can sing the lyrics to it for yourself. Therefore, it must be a song with a powerful melody."
At the very beginning of the album was the song Scarred Heart’s Grin, with which Klíč as the author was shortlisted for the finals of an international composers' competition. When asked what such success means to him, he said: "Most importantly, it is important to me that what I do is not entirely unnecessary, that someone else can notice it and that it can reach a larger mass of people. I always felt like I was on the edge of genres and this kicked me off a bit. I feel that the journey is not completely pointless." And this journey has now resulted in the composition of an additional six instrumental songs, most of which far exceed the normal length of, for example, a radio hit. Klíč works mostly with a "song" length of between six and eight minutes, allowing it to develop its melodic and sound ideas, while still retaining the listener's attention.
Although the album can be referred to as a solo recording and its title includes the phrase "one man", it is indeed a very colourfully arranged work. In doing so, most of the tones were acquired by Klíč by laying individual cello tracks over one another. Cello thus plays both the basic melodic and harmonic roles (thanks to the layering of tracks) and last but not least the rhythmic role in the compositions. Other sounds play a more mood-setting role, such as a chain in the composition Ku blankytu [To the Azure] or a female voice or laughter (Tereza Lexová) in several compositions. Even here, however, it applies that the voice is not the carrier of meaning, but only one of the colours used. Incidentally, thanks to the use of different playing techniques and Klíč's interpretive mastery, the overlapping cello tracks do not sound here like a single multiplied instrument, but like a true chamber orchestra with different colours and shades.
And just like the artist works here with colours and with the development of the melody on their layout, he obviously also works with other core elements of the compositions – rhythm and tempo and dynamics. At the same time, he cruises through music genres that are close to him, whether it is a "squeaking" alternative in Ku blankytu, elements of theatre music or jazz in Asanace, or basically a pop melody in the closing song Matouš 28, which was created by remaking an older Klíč's song. It is remarkable with the work with the bass line in contrast to protracted higher tones. The previous Hliněná tabulka [A Clay Board] could have a very successful cover version with electronic accompaniment – as if it were the form to which Klíč with his rhythmic pizzicato under the main melody heralded the way.
The songs from the album may not have lyrics, but the names suggest a lot and the style of play often gives the full hint. Varování noci [Warning of the Night], for example, is a very dramatic piece in which cellos evoke a horror atmosphere perhaps even more than the woman's cry and the imitation of clock ticking at the end. Boží lano[God's Rope] then urges the story to be created exactly according to Klíč's instructions: "I do not want to impose on the audience what it is directly all about. People can put their own story in there, and the song title itself is a guideline."
Cello has been a relatively fashionable instrument in recent years. All around the world, and in this country as well, we know cello bands that play metal for example. Pavel Čadek, who accompanies himself on cello, is a great discovery on the singer-songwriters' scene here. Josef Klíč, however, came up with something different. With his solo album, arranged thoroughly to the last detail, on which he valorised his experience from classical music as well as from rock and underground and created an exceptionally high-quality basis for listeners' imagination. The songs are without words, however, they have powerful stories. Stories of every one of us.
Josef Klíč & His One Man Cello Squad; Indies Happy Trails 2019; 7 tracks; total playing time: 43:19