chamber music contemporary classical Experimental modern classical neoclassical review

Spindle Ensemble – Inkling Review

Strangeness abound from the chamber orchestra.

Sounds like…

A quirky chamber orchestra scoring freeform to old movies.

The review

Spindle Ensemble are a contemporary classical chamber quartet. They play the cello, violin, piano, accordion, harp, marimba and vibraphone between them. Then they bring in brass, percussion and the odd guitar on occasion to expand their sound for their ambitious and quirky new album ‘Inkling’.

The idea for the album is that you are enjoying a Spindle Ensemble live concert in a church and the album is produced in a way that feels like you are sat in the same room as the musicians. It has a vintage, tape warmed vibe to it. The music is a real selection box of experimental chamber music. Everything feels like a soundtrack to an event of some kind but the music is rarely cinematic. Instead, it is scenic, broody and at all times curious.

‘Caligo’ is the easiest track to dive into. A mixture of double bass slink, tentative strings, curious harps and melodic marimba. The track feels lush and vibrant. It’s also one of the most immediately melodic too. The Spindle Ensemble try to avoid using big hooks wherever possible for a sustained period of time. ‘Chase’ is an Evelyn Glennie styled tuned vibraphone and piano charge. It reminds me funnily enough of battle themes from Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles – and that is a huge compliment. ‘Genie’ is a minimal neoclassical piano, string and vibraphone piece.

Spindle Ensemble

Where Spindle Ensemble really stretch their legs are with the long and bizarre tracks. ‘Okemah Sundown’ takes the chamber orchestra to the Wild West. Mixing in timpani and acoustic guitar with the usual instruments gives you a symphonic hobbyhorse ride through the desert. It is dense with atmosphere and charm. The title track is an off-kilter push towards something like the soundtrack to an old detective movie. The way it skits and flits around with chords that evoke an eyebrow lift of curiosity is fun. It might not be the most accessible piece of music committed to tape but you could score scenes from countless movies over the top of it for fun. Digital bonus track ‘Menilmontant’ (originally a B-side for single ‘Caligo’) is a space opera. The piano and strings have huge power to them as you have a church reverb that rings out like a glassy bell. The craziest track of them all is the ten minute ‘Waves’. The piece has several phases, each of them evoking water rushes in different waves. Want bent strings twisting off-key? Got it. Want rolling marimbas like the ocean floor? Have a minute of that too. Want a cinematic march of power over jazzy plinks and unfurls of a piano? Sorted! Its a wonderfully weird piece that I admire even if I don’t fully connect with it.

Admiration without full understanding is definitely how I’d describe ‘Inkling’. Spindle Ensemble has some utterly stunning musical craft and they intend on showcasing it in unusual ways. I’m glad they are about and finding challenging ways to create symphonic movements and scenic moments in time. I may not click with them all but when the mood fits, its golden hour.

Recommended track: Caligo

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Spindle Ensemble - Inkling

7.5

7.5/10

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