The web of historical influences weaving their indelible imprint across what in turn the exhilarating and most wonderful Spindle Ensemble make all their own is nothing short of a joy to behold. But make no mistake the creative pulse coursing throughout Inkling is so very 21st century, flickering with an abundance of light, that it feels almost revolutionary in itself escaping into a carefree future of ideas and probabilities. Call it Classical or otherwise but this imaginatively assembled collection of notes and emotions is never less then eloquent as Daniel Inzani, Harriet Riley, Jo Silverston and Caelia Lunniss demonstrate so readily care of the air of definite ease. Although, itâ€™s perhaps a disservice to even mention the word classical in all this as the continued play of the album also unearths fields of cinema, hints of minimalist repetition alongside the intoxicating beauty of romantic excess, all under the cover of loud and quiet motion. The ways in which moods lift and fall is breath-taking like the way sounds caress the images and memories forming in the mind. This then is about music to accompany thoughts as they traverse journeys of the imagination, just as it is to quench the soul revitalising each drop. Music highlighting quality and distinction telling its own unique story can be hard to find in modern times but the rich breath of delicate refrain, plus the occasional rush of daring intensity, leaves you all at once excited by the prospect while feeling strummed by heartstrings.
Welcome to Magazine Sixty, Daniel Inzani and Harriet Riley from Spindle Ensemble. Letâ€™s begin with the name Spindle Ensemble and its meaning?
There are a few reasons actuallyâ€¦ Wood is a theme, Spindles are wooden like (almost) all our instruments: piano, violin, cello, Celtic harp and marimba, and thereâ€™s a very beautiful tree with a distinctive bright pink fruit called a spindle tree. Itâ€™s also a reference to the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale, the princess pricks her finger on a spindle and it sends her into a long, long dream. I love those old magical and creepy stories, and want to create music which has an unspoken narrative so it seemed like a serendipitous name. (Daniel)
Your stunning second album: Inkling is your ï¬rst for Hidden Notes. Tell us about how your relationship with the label came about?
We played at the ï¬rst Hidden Notes festival in 2019 which we loved. There were so many fantastic acts and everyone running the festival was super engaged and passionate about the music – plus being in nearby Stroud, it was great to see such a wealth of experimental classical music so close to home. They decided to create a label and ours is the ï¬rst record to come out under Hidden Notes Records! (Harriet)
The music combines the traditional alongside a more radical, teasing of the senses. Is there a particular piece of music from childhood which set each of you on the path to the music you now create?
Certainly for me, the fantastic Ruth Underwood, who was percussionist for Frank Zappa in the 70s. She often had an array of massive percussion instruments around her: marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, bass drum, tubular bells etc. Plus she was often the only girl in the band – something I have related to a LOT in my career. Weâ€™ve got a fairly unusual ratio in Spindle! Check out St Alfonzoâ€™s Pancake Breakfast by Frank Zappa. (Harriet)
Can you talk us through the process of how one of the tracks from the album was created and then produced? I was also curious to ask about the recording process itself, which microphones are best suited to each instrument and about any eï¬€ects etc you use?
I set up a location recording studio specifically for this album consisting of ribbon microphones, some handmade from Extinct Audio and some vintage refurbished ones from X-Audia. They have a very warm tone which suits our whole instrumentation but the real advantage is being able capture a 3D sound image of the space weâ€™re performing in using a Blumlein array with a matched pair of BM9 ribbon mics. We record in concert halls and churches where the acoustics suit our music and set up around this pair as if it was an audience member positioned in the best seat in the house. This stereo image is the bulk of the final sound which is spacious and allows the listener to feel like theyâ€™re hearing us perform live in concert, even able to pick out the position of each instrument. (Daniel)
How would you say the atmosphere of living in Bristol has fed into the music you make? Which (pre-Covid) venues are your favourite to play at in the city?
Weâ€™ve had some fantastic support from venues with Spindle! I love playing in the incredible acoustic of St Georgeâ€™s, but also smaller venues like the Forge where thereâ€™s a really intimate vibe. (Harriet)
How would you describe the power that music has without words?
I think thereâ€™s that extra sense of subjectivity. I know it can be a diï¬€erent experience for musicians and non-musicians, but I certainly hear a conversation happening. Thereâ€™s voices and emotions and itâ€™s like tuning into another language. It can be an incredible way to getting know someone by playing them, getting to know their insecurities and strengths and supporting each other within these. I think with great music you can hear these relationships play out. (Harriet)
Should music always be political in some shape or form, or purely about emotion?
Everything you do can be perceived as political. Itâ€™s political to make music about emotional and reject the ideas of suppressing your emotions which daily life often involves. Our music certainly doesnâ€™t have catchy chorusâ€™ about systemic change, though those can be great, but we have our own take on connecting to nature and ourselves and our music reï¬‚ects that. Sometimes being completely abstract is like rejecting the whole system. (Harriet)
Outside of music which artists inspire each of you most (Painters, poets, writers etc)?
I absolutely adore visual art, speciï¬cally paintings. Georgia Oâ€™keeï¬€eâ€™s super enlarged ï¬‚owers, really detailed surrealism by Dali and impressionists like Degas would deï¬nitely be up there with my favourites. But I also love to support and buy local art – Bristol and Stroud have some amazing designers and artists and supporting their process and work is really inspiring in a totally abstracted way to music. I recently got a painting by Nettle Grellier which is incredible – check out her work! (Harriet)
(Music video/animation by Marie Lechevallier)
Your recent single, Caligo is elegantly accompanied by a video from Narna Hue which captures and then blurs memory in amongst the reï¬‚ective arrangement. What can you tell us about the making of it and what it represents for you?
Narna Hue and I have collaborated on a lot of music videos now. Caligo combines two of the different approaches she used in previous videos: filming on super 8 and creating animations from scratching directly onto 16mm film. The colours and patterns are very visually satisfying and her editing is very musical, she has created a narrative that flows perfectly with the music. (Daniel)
And ï¬nally. The obvious question. What is each of you looking forward to most in 2021?
Iâ€™m looking forward to performing and connecting with people. Itâ€™s so hard when such a big part of your life like sharing music with audiences is taken away, it really makes you value your place in life. Releasing â€˜Inklingâ€™ will be a really emotional event coming out of this. Plus just meeting people for a casual drink and a hug! (Harriet)
Spindle Ensemble – Inkling – Hidden Notes Records is released May 27