Review : Smoke Fairies - Blood Speaks
ContactmusicSmoke Fairies new album 'Blood Speaks' is the result of a 'more confident', 'bolder' band 'pushing (their) boundaries' and incorporating 'broader influences'. Having caught the ear of such respected and influential musicians as Richard Hawley and Jack White (the latter having recorded, released and gigged with the duo), Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies may have found themselves in a position of implied pressure to follow up their very favourably received debut album, 'Through Low Light And Trees'. Upping sticks from the tranquillity and peace of Sussex and eschewing their previous Cornwall haunt in favour of the suburban chaos of London's Ladbrook Grove to record their new album has undoubtedly helped the pair toughen up both musically and individually. In Katherine's own words, she says, 'We've made peace with the city' whereas previously she felt like she was trapped by it. The result is an album, Smoke Fairies, say, which is, in the most part, 'Inspired by London and travelling.'
If all this talk of a tougher and bolder Smoke Fairies has you all of a quiver because you fear they may have lost some of their original charm, worry not. There is a move towards a slightly edgier sound with an undercurrent of torment bubbling not far from the surface, but ostensibly, Smoke Fairies have kept their tightly wrapped symbiotic sound and further enhanced it with a maturity and assuredness born of age and confidence. The opening two tracks don't stray far from the (Smoke Fairies) norm with the sound of Fleetwood Mac on 'Let Me Know' and even a faint hint of Morcheeba on the more gentle hypnotic notes of 'Awake'.
Where Smoke Fairies start to broaden their horizons and spread their musical wings can be heard from the more bluesy, harder, sound of 'The Three Of Us'. The narrative road trip tale is notable for its fabulous steel slide guitar riffs, more punchy percussion and the unrelenting majesty of the combined vocal delivery. Rather like Laura Marling going a little wilder for 'The Beast' on her latest album, Smoke Fairies have, albeit too briefly, unshackled themselves and strummed a guitar in 'anger'. 'Daylight' follows on with a piano accompanying the delicate ache of the vocal in a stripped back but effective mix that is similar in part to PJ Harvey's White Chalk album. More of the bands broader pallet is further in evidence on the title track 'Blood Speaks'. With possibly the least immediate, least accessible track on the 10 track album being given title track status you would think Smoke Fairies were trying to be difficult but perseverance pays off. The slow smouldering build to this track is like watching a snowball travel slowly downhill, gradually picking up momentum and volume, eventually forming an avalanche of stunning sonic layers that wash over you....full text
BbcThey may hail from leafy Sussex, but Jessica Jones and Katherine Blamire are more American than most Americans. Indeed, their career path as Smoke Fairies and their musical values could hardly be more representative of the 50 states.
Heavily steeped in Americana, they lived in New Orleans for a culture-soaking sojourn, many years before the release of their debut album Through Low Light and Trees. And it was in Austin, Texas where they broke through with performances at the 2010 music conference South by Southwest.
Arguably more fascinating still is that, beneath the unassuming facade, they are international-class networkers who released a single on Jack White's Third Man label in 2009. It's not been a fleeting relationship: White asked them to be the support for his solo shows of 2012.
It's clear what White sees in them: there's a purity to their vocals from the moment Let Me Know opens this second album with some epic wailing in unison before it settles into a lolloping, echo-strewn lilt, not a million miles away from an under-produced Pierces. White might also have noted the doom-laden undertow to their lyrics; while if June Tabor were more worldly she might wrap herself around songs of betrayal and crushed hopes such as The Three of Us, the impossibly claustrophobic but unashamedly melodic Take Me Down When You Go ("something dies when you fall in love"), and the title-track....full text
HolymolyIt’s always been difficult to review Smoke Fairies because they’ve never sounded like anyone else. Their combination of mournful English vowels and swampy echoes of the blues is a combination unique to them. Shirley Collins and Davy Graham tried a similar recipe in 1964 but the results bear little resemblance. And now they’re at that point where all bands simply sound like themselves – the difficult third second album – how do we begin to describe Blood Speaks without making a human centipede out of words?
Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies’ latest collection has been described by some critics as having a bigger sound than 2010’s commanding Through Low Light And Trees, and while that may well be true in terms of the arrangements - the band now plays more than simply a supporting role - the songs exist in far smaller spaces, frequently confined to their authors’ own nagging thoughts.
We might be projecting here but they sound like songs written in hot cars, and stifling rooms. There’s an oppressive closeness; the kind of heat that doesn’t carry a breeze: stormy, threatening, smothering.
Smoke Fairies write in short story form. We’re dropped into magnified moments in their lives, not long enough to build a full picture. Where are they travelling? What’s bugging them? Who are they waking up with/without? Nothing is explained, everything is left to the imagination. It’s a compelling style...full text
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