Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Spiro @ Band on the Wall, Friday 26th February, 2010

It's always refreshing to be reminded how much can be made out of so little. With just mandolin, accordion, violin and guitar, folk quartet Spiro have put together a sound which seems to combine the best of so many things into something uniquely irresistible.

The instrumentation and the melodic sensibility could be described as 'folk-friendly', but Spiro really aren't the traditional folk quartet. Whereas the main focus in trad-folk is usually the melody, Spiro's sound has a textural richness and variety unmatched by any other acoustic four-piece I've ever heard. There are definite resonances with the Penguin Café Orchestra; an endearingly playful reshaping of traditional folk melodies, as well as a focus on the textural warmth and richness of acoustic instruments.

But there is a rhythmic urgency and complexity which sets Spiro apart from Penguin Café's introspective ambience. Exquisitely conceived rhythmic cells criss-cross in and out of each other, creating the kaleidoscopic hypnosis you might usually get listening to Steve Reich. But again, this comparison is lacking. Although we might normally associate American minimalism with Zen Buddhism and marijuana, Spiro's infectious melodic exuberance propels the rhythmic engine skywards like a euphoric dance anthem. Cherry-picking from both albums, Pole Star and Lightbox you couldn't help but be won over by the joyous energy of a group who know they've really found their own sound.

Words: Owen Hewson


  1. Hey Owen, I didn't know you were writing for Now Then. Great write up! I saw Spiro at WOMAD last year, I'd go along with all of the above.

  2. Hey Jamie! They were so good. Would have loved to have seen them at Womad. A domani...