Acoustic music has never sounded as joyful and fun as Spiro's, the instrumental quartet from Bristol. The band, which line-up, has remained unchanged for 20 years, received a wider attention and critical acclaim when it released the outstanding and enchanting records such as Lightbox (Real World Records, 2009) and Kaleidophonica (Real World Records, 2012). Spiro has been crafting its own brand of folk/acoustic music and the way it imbues tradition with unbridled zest, it can surely convert the least folk-friendly listeners into being fans. Even though the band's records were released by a renowned record label, its highly sought-after debut album was self released in 1997 and finally it got a proper re-release and exposure.
Pole Star is nothing short of a brilliant. This album was recorded live in two days at the BBC Christchurch Studios in Bristol in 1996 while next door the trip hop band Massive Attack and its guest vocalist, the wonderful Elizabeth Fraser from Cocteau Twins, were recording the watershed Mezzanine (Virgin Records, 1998). The story goes that during the break while recording "Teardrop" Fraser heard the intriguing sounds of Spiro's music and went to check on the band thus witnessing the birth of this beautiful debut. Based on existing folk tunes, Spiro has crafted rich and somber music full of gorgeous performances and sparkling melodies driven by first rate musicianship. As eclectic an amalgamation as the folk music it represents or originates from, Spiro is really a boundary pusher. While using old folk tunes, Spiro has been able to transcend those roots and folkish melodies and embark into something unique.
The band creates a mesh of richly textured and layered melodies as it dances with unchecked enthusiasm between minimalism and folk music. And it is astonishing what a band consisting of only a mandolin, violin, guitar and accordion can achieve as the instrumentals keep surging in new directions and simultaneously making interesting new things happen.
Based on the music as well as what came after, Pole Star seems more like a work of an ambitious collective on the hunt for challenging projects. Every note played here, starting from simple laments to upbeat, effervescent dances, which are full of blistering ornaments, are tossed off with a beguiling combination of ease and technical fluency. The band Spiro is so good that it makes it all look easy, and more importantly than that, it makes it all look like a lot of fun.
The Iron Way, Have a Care of Her Johnny, Prussia Cove, Gillan Na
Droer, Heartsease, The Sky is a Blue Bowl, Gingling Geordie, The
Lily/The Grouse was Dead, (When it Hit The Queen), Lasses Make Your
Tails Toddle, The Black and the Grey, Florinda, Gabor's Tune/Spinning
Jenny. Joyful Days is Coming
Jane Harbour: violin; Alex Vann:mandolin; Jason Sparkes: accordion;
Jon Hunt: acoustic guitar.