Spiro’s raw, punk-infused take on minimalist systems music and the dark side of folk, charged with the ecstatic influence of the clubbing scene, began life in 1993 at the instigation of violinist and composer Jane Harbour. Jane’s minimalist systems and electronica influences met head on with the punk influences of mandolinist Alex Vann and guitarist Jon Hunt, and the physical ingenuity of accordion savant Jason Sparkes.
Spiro operates as one highly emotionally-charged but exquisitely controlled machine, the parts of which combine in a fierce but tender dynamic interplay. Melodies of classical heft vie with driving rhythmic riffs of unusual spiky beauty in deep layers of instrumental interplay as the intricate musical systems play out – a moving, cinematic, exciting and unique music in which themes are broken and mended again, leaving us in a new musical and emotional landscape.
Jane, classically trained and having studied with Shinichi Suzuki in Japan, and initially inspired by Bach, Bartok, Britten and Stravinsky, met Alex, Jason and Jon at traditional music sessions in Bristol. 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. Accordionist Jason Sparkes began his own classical training during his pre-school years before taking up folk music at the start of his teens, inspired by his morris-dancing father. Jon Hunt took an unusual route from pop to folk to punk to post-punk/new wave but emerged with “this preserved love and fascination for traditional English music”.
Their first album Pole Star reworked tunes from the North of England, with Jane’s growing fascination with minimalist systems music beginning to impact on the sound. Then came Lightbox, Kaleidophonica and Welcome Joy and Welcome Sorrow, all recorded for Real World Records. With each album Spiro’s sound builds in complexity and adventurous maturity, with Harbour as compositional spearhead, creating towering complex musical edifices bolstered with melodies of classical gravitas. Other Real World Spiro releases include a re-release of Pole Star, a vinyl-only compilation album Repeater, and a mini-album, The Vapourer, which features Moog versions of We Will Be Absorbed andThe Vapourer by Portishead’s Adrian Utley, plus live recordings of the band at WOMAD UK. Many international tours, late nights and a number of award nominations later, the band now plan their next departure, soon to be announced.