Spiro – “Yellow Noise”
Spiro is one of the most energetic bands around today. One look at their lineup – violin, accordion, mandolin, guitar, cello – and you may think you’re looking at a folk group. While Spiro features traditional instruments and borrows passages from folk tunes, their sound and approach isn’t typical of any folk scene. “We’ve got more to do with minimalist classical and dance music than we have with folk,” says guitarist Jon Hunt. “Even though we use folk tunes, they’re raw materials that the rest of the sound is built around.” Violinist Jane Harbour likens the group to a string quartet. “We’re like a string quartet, but the most driving and exciting string quartet that you could imagine.” This instrumental four-piece from Bristol is unlike anything you’ve heard and their latest record, Kaleidophonica (available on Real World Records), broadens the musical spectrum once again.
The members of Spiro originally came together through Bristol’s folk sessions scene in 1993. They began performing under the name of The Famous Five before refocusing and changing their name to Spiro. Despite being together for 16 years, Kaleidophonica is only the group’s third album. Part of what makes Spiro’s sound so natural and organic is their ability to work at their own pace. Their critically acclaimed second CD, Lightbox, introduced listeners worldwide to Spiro’s music. Kaleidophonica builds upon that release and pushes the band’s complex arrangements into a new realm.
“We’ve taken the most intricate bits of Lightbox and taken the whole mesh to a higher level. And if it sounds as if there are more than four of us playing, it’s because much of the time people are playing more than one part at the same time. We try to play two lines on one instrument quite a lot, so at some points there might be eight lines going on….” – Jane Harbour
Spiro features Jane Harbour (violin), Jason Sparkes (piano accordion), Alex Vann (mandolin) and Jon Hunt (acoustic guitar, cello). The four members produce so much music, it’s hard to believe they recorded Kaleidophonica live in the studio without overdubs. While a track may start slowly, it usually doesn’t take long until Spiro gets the engine churning. Quick and repetitive riffs on violin merge perfectly with mandolin accompaniment and pulsing accordion while the acoustic guitar ties everything together. The music can change from being open and sparse to being frenetic and boisterous in an instant. While Spiro’s sound is minimalistic, there is a glowing, soulful warmth found here that is absent in some of Philip Glass’ and Steve Reich’s work. Tension and release guides a lot of these cinematic tracks along from start to finish.
Check out “Yellow Noise” to hear Spiro for yourself. “Yellow Noise” is about sunlight, and is taken from the Emily Dickinson poem about a burial (‘let no sunlight, yellow noise, interrupt this ground’). As the song builds with intensity, pockets of urgent dissonance lead to incredible, sweeping soundscapes that are so intricate, you will find yourself listening to these tracks over and over again to catch all of the harmonies. Don’t miss Spiro’s video for “The City and the Stars” from Kaleidophonica. Take a look at their live dates to see when they will be in your area.