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Lightbox CD


Price: £12.64 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
Includes FREE MP3 version of this album.
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Product details

  • Audio CD (22 Jun. 2009)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: CD
  • Label: Real World Records
  • ASIN: B00293589E
  • Other Editions: MP3 Download
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 47,558 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

1. The Darkling Plains
2. A Small Light In The Far West
3. The White Hart
4. Antrobus
5. Shaft
6. I Fear You Just As I Fear Ghosts
7. Pop
8. Level 2 Small Bats
9. The Radio Sky
10. Glittering City
11. Underland
12. Altrincham Round
13. Captain Say Catastrophe
14. Binatone
15. The Lost Heart
16. Wolves
17. Mr. Keys

Product Description

CD Description

Spiro are the most exciting quartet you’re likely to hear. Their unique brand of music is sweeping, majestic and cinematic – essentially English, beautifully brilliant. They might bear the tools of the folk musician and be partial to the odd traditional tune, but Spiro claim to have closer affinities to the worlds of contemporary classical and dance music than they do to the folk scene.

This four-piece contemporary ensemble take a meticulous approach to composition and performance, creating a sound much greater than their parts (accordion, mandolin, acoustic guitar and violin) would suggest. Their music – as heard on Lightbox, their new album for Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records – is sweeping, majestic and cinematic, marking them out as kindred spirits with Steve Reich, Michael Nyman and the Penguin Café Orchestra. It’s a unified but never uniform sound, one made by four virtuosic musicians pulling in the same direction and keen to provoke an emotional response in anyone within earshot.

“We’re like a string quartet,” they explain, “but the most driving and exciting string quartet that you could imagine.”

BBC Review

Jon Hunt (guitar), Jason Sparkes (accordion), Alex Vann (mandolin) and Jane Harbour (violin) confound by subtle means. The first listen to this, their third album, will probably make you smile a little; enjoying the rolling, jaunty pastoralism, the faux-jig Englishness and the feeling that beneath the surface lurks something far more intricate than is immediately obvious. But then you peruse the sleeve and note the words, '...recorded live in the studio with no overdubs'. Blimey.

While all critics and fans so far have been keen (and correct) to point out the parallels here between Spiro and systems music specialists such as Steve Reich or with other contemporary folk(ish) ensembles like Penguin Cafe Orchestra, there is a USP to Spiro's music. For one, it is far closer to folk traditions than it almost dares to admit. The rather arbitrary division of traditional and modern forms erroneously denies the linear heritage; for what is a jig or a reel, if not systems music before the term was coined? Secondly, their adherence to scales and instrumentality that all come with attendant rural connotations means that it takes a while to realise that this is staggeringly complex stuff.

Partly produced by Simon Emmerson, the man behind the Imagined Village project, Lightbox has no solos and no showboating, but considerable skill. Much like King Crimson's gamelan-like explorations in the 80s, this is cerebral music, precise and well thought out. If that makes you think of something cold and unfeeling, you'd be wrong.

Melodies that bleed through the warp and weft as on Underland or The White hart can be breathtakingly moving, and their ear for understanding how to build something towards a dazzling climax means that even if you don't experience them on disc, you should most definitely catch them live. Without a doubt it'll be quite a spectacle. --Chris Jones

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Dec. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
I first heard Spiro's music when it was featured on Peter Gabriel's website earlier this year (this release is on his Real World label), and was immediately captivated by their sound: stimulating, swirling, interweaving and beguiling. I saw them play a small arts centre in a Gloucestershire village last week, and was entranced all over again to see how they were able to produce this complicated sound live (it should be noted that all of this record was made that way, with no overdubs).

Using a standard folkie line-up (accordion, violin, guitar, mandolin) and some simple initial melodic ideas (some of which have their origins in traditional dance tunes), the band build intricately crafted arrangements that see each instrument following separate melodic lines which mesh together to create a detailed, dense sound. Their occasional use of odd metres is effortlessly blended into the mix: I was happily tapping my foot to one of their tunes before realising that it was in 7/8. If connections or comparisons are required, the influence of ideas from systems music and minimalism (as promulgated by, for example, Steve Reich or the Penguin Cafe Orchestra) can be spotted; other reference points that occurred to me are King Crimson's Discipline, Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Pat Metheny's The Way Up. But forging these links is ultimately less important than realizing that this is original, emotionally compelling music that deserves repeated close listening.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 21 July 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Having come across Spiro as a replacement act at the Larmer Tree Festival I HAD to buy this - and it does not disappoint, even listened to in a London flat, and with dry feet!

These wonderful musicians take the stuff of English instrumental folk music and weave and plait their instrumental lines together. Much like Philip Glass's music a line will be repeated, over and over, and slowly another line weaves through it, expands, shifts, develops. Wonderful, dynamic, spacious music, coiling and roiling like a great serpent across the landscape.

The mood changes from St Vitus dance foot tapping possession to full and graceful, shot through with melancholy.

Clearly, it wasn't just the mud and the sleepless nights under canvas which made Spiro grab me by the heartstrings.

These musicians have magic in their souls and fingers!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Carr on 21 May 2010
Format: Audio CD
This, and the previous album Polestar, display a wonderful rhythmic layered style of instrumental folk music that's really quite remarkable. There is development but the emphasis is much more on the enjoyment of shifting patterns of sound. If you like accordion, guitar, violin, etc, and find John Adams or Philip Glass enjoyable you should find this pretty intoxicating stuff, I'm stunned by the superb musicianship. They are a bit like Penguin Cafe Orchestra, but I'd say they were a touch more folky. They are even more like a minimalist, higher energy version of Hoover the Dog, another band I think are superb - and indeed with a similar set of instruments. It's a pleasure to pick out the original folk tune swirling in and out of sight in the middle of the layers of melody, something for brain, heart and, certainly, feet. Indeed, some of this is very foot-tapping stuff. Highly recommended. If you like this, get Polestar as well, but that seems just to be on the spiromusic web site.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Sam on 1 Sept. 2009
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
A beautiful album, the highlight of which, for me, is the energetic and uplifting 'Shaft'. I saw Spiro perform at the Womad festival to a packed arena - they were superb. This album has many of those that were performed. They are a purely string instrumental group, and the tracks have traditional folk song influences, but with unmistakable modern rhythms and production. If you like Spiro, also try the Scottish band Deaf Sheppard which includes bagpipes, drums, guitar and wonderful vocals.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mr. N. J. Harding on 1 Aug. 2009
Format: Audio CD
I guess like many who have bought or are thinking of buying this record, Spiro came to my attention after a cracking set at a Festival in 2009. Big Session in Leicester for me, in case you are wondering...

The great news about `Lightbox' is that it retains the live dynamic and translates well; indeed the CD packaging claims that "...This album was recorded live in the studio with no overdubs."

The magical Simon Emmerson of `Afro Celt Sound System' and `The Imagined Village' fame produced over half of the album and his influence can be felt both in terms of melody and the dance vibe that permeates this record.

Although the album contains all original compositions, much of the source material is drawn from the rich English folk canon although on tracks like `The radio sky', `Pop' and `Binatone' you have to listen hard to discern that. `I fear you just as I fear ghosts' is a beautiful original piece.

A wonderful debut and well worth your hard earned cash.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kjell Karlsson on 10 Oct. 2013
Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Came here via Penguin café Orchestra and was not disappointed at all....On the contrary...very pleased with what I encounterd...Simply fascinating!
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