“Arlet’s music is located somewhere between the folk club and the chamber music hall. Propelled by the restless creativity of accordionist and composer Aidan Shepherd, their sound brings together the primary colours of the orchestra – strings, woodwind and brass – and adds an indefinable irridescent shimmer. The joyful melodicism and rhythmic intensity of British folk is a shared inspiration, but rather than viewing these traditions as artefacts to be revered, Arlet are drawing on folk idioms as a point of departure for their carefully sculpted, richly harmonic and ornately textured music.

Despite its freshness, this feels like music that has seeped out of the land – it has a pastorality, an Englishness (wisps of Vaughan Williams and his ilk have woven themselves into Aidan’s remarkably mature composition). Sounding sometimes like a chamber quintet letting its hair down and finding a curious groove circa 1973, sometimes like a session band in the corner of a rural pub suddenly slipping through a vortex into another musical dimension, there are few comparisons besides perhaps the Penguin Cafe Orchestra and Bristol’s criminally under-recognised Spiro. Like Spiro, Arlet are exploring the possibilities of arranging folk melody in a way which draws on the post-1960s serialist and minimalist composers (Reich, Glass, et al.) while achieving a musical vision closer in joyous and exuberant spirit to the music of Terry Riley.


Written by Matthew Watkins