‘Dancing music, music sad, both together, sane and mad’ John Keats.
While this isn’t exclusively a film-music blog, I’m drawn towards cinematic music which is why I’ve been swept away with Welcome Joy Welcome Sorrow, the newest album from British group Spiro. Aside from the title – which lures me in like bait for terminal daydreamers, I took to the music immediately because it sets a strong tone from the very first phrase. As music becomes more visual, and visuals become more sonically dependent, creative worlds are colliding at an ever greater speed and scope and the music of Spiro is the perfect example of this emerging synergistic expression.
Welcome Joy Welcome Sorrow is the first line of Keat’s poem A Song of Opposites that has acted as a kind of mission statement for the group’s 5th album, says violinist Jane Harbour, ‘It’s an album about being alive.’ And with the most notable character of this album being the driving, hypnotic momentum of the strings, it makes the simple act of looking out your window feel like an important, beautiful moment worth relishing. If I was forced to describe the music of Spiro I would call it folk-inspired, however, guitarist Jon Hunt urges, ‘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.‘ It’s true that the folk element is more like a jumping off point. Welcome Joy Welcome Sorrow reminds me of Thomas Newman’s score for Scent of a Woman and Michael Nyman’s work on Jan Campion’s The Piano. A violin, mandolin, accordion and acoustic guitar are all the tools that the four-piece needed to create a record that contains some beautifully contrasting landscapes, where you pass from the plaintiff song of a solo violin, through to gushing torrents of sound, that drive and tumble the listener along the river bed.
Alex Mann explains why the Bristol band have remained instrumental, ‘Music taps into something fundamental to us all…You’ve reached a place beyond words, the most amazing place that we all share. We go through life trying to connect with other people and the universe, and music is a powerful, fundamentally honest way of doing this. With instrumental music this connection is not muddled by words.’
Spiro is Jane Harbour, Jason Sparkes, Jon Hunt and Alex Mann. The second album released through Real World Records, Welcome Joy Welcome Sorrow is a must-have for anyone who loves the wind in their hair and the feel of grass under foot, real or imagined mountain climbers and those looking for a window to new worlds.