Vieux Farka Toure
English folk meets Philip Glass
Thursday 29th September 2016, 7.30pm
Yellow Arch Studios, Sheffield
Click below to hear 'The City and the Stars' from the band's Kaleidophonica album
TalkingGigs is delighted to present a very special gig by the extraordinary category-defying band Spiro. The band have received a series of ecstatic 5 star reviews for their 3 albums on Real World Records and attract a fanatical enthusiasm from their rapidly increasing audiences. Their live performances are magnificent and mesmerising – lifting the bonnet on traditional English tunes and blending them with minimalist and techno influences to produce a truly modern music with incredible vitality. For the first half of this gig Spiro will explore and demonstrate their unique approach and sound, with the second half a dazzling display of a full set of their wonderful music.
Spiro’s traditional-seeming four piece line-up of violin, acoustic guitar, mandolin and accordion give no clue to the complex intensity and originality of their sound which redefines English folk music with their special blend of Northumbrian traditional tunes and systems music. As many journalists and reviewers have found, Spiro are something of a slippery beast when it comes to being contained by mere words. Spiro guitarist Jon Hunt has a go.
“Weʼve got as much to do with minimalist classical and dance music as we have with folk. Even though we use folk tunes, theyʼre raw materials that the rest of the sound is built around.”
The individual backgrounds of the four band members are wide-reaching. Jane studied classical violin in Japan under the legendary Shinichi Suzuki and grew up “listening to a lot of vaguely modern classical stuff like Bartok and Stravinsky and Britten so Iʼve got a lot of time for dissonance and strange harmonies and counter rhythms”. Sheʼs also a sucker for dance music, “repetitive tunes that are really free and ecstatic”.
Accordionist Jason Sparkes began his own classical training during his pre-school years before taking up folk at the start of his teens, inspired by his Morris-dancing father. Alex Vann was the drummer in a punk band before taking up the electric guitar and then graduating to his weapon of choice – the mandolin. Jon Hunt has also done his time in punk bands, someone who took an unusual route from pop to folk to punk to post-punk/new wave but emerged with “this preserved love and fascination for English traditional music.”
One thing is certain – Spiro are their own people, commendably operating in their own sphere and at their own pace. This contemporary acoustic ensemble first came together through Bristolʼs folk sessions scene in 1993, trading under the name of The Famous Five. After years of obscurity they were signed to Real World Records by Peter Gabriel, releasing their first album, Lightbox, for the label in 2009. The album received a range of ecstatic reviews which tried to capture the astonishing sound of the band:
“Spiro are like Detroit techno played by a travelling band out of a Hardy novel – or Steve Reich playing the cider-scented backroom of a village pub. Intense and minimal, they roll out complex arrangements with such ease that you feel your heart lift a few inches above its normal resting place” (The Word)
Their second album, Kaleidophonica, was released in 2012 to a string of 5 star reviews in the Guardian, Songlines, Evening Standard and other publication. This was followed by hugely successful tours of the UK, festival performances including WOMAD and Cambridge Folk Festival, showcases at Glasgow’s Celtic Connections Festival and WOMEX in Santiago de Compostella, and performances across the world including Canada, Spain, Russia, India, Australia and New Zealand.
In 2013 the band released an EP of remixes of some tracks with Portishead’s Adrian Utley, demonstrating the connections across the vibrant music scene in Bristol. Their most recent album, Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow, was nominated in the 2016 Songlines Music Awards with the track, The Vapourer, being nominated for the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards.
“Their finest studio work so far, but the power they summon up live makes them a must-see experience” (***** Songlines)
The combination of musical talents and influences make Spiro an ideal band for TalkingGigs, which will allow you to get some insight into how the band operate, how they put their music together, and how their various influences are melded together to produce their unique, fascinating and complex sound. You’ll also get a chance to ask the questions that have always intrigued you. But you will also get the chance to hear the band in full flight in a second half of 100% music.