Smoke Fairies - Through Low Light & Trees - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Smoke Fairies - Through Low Light & Trees

by Andy Brown Rating:7 Release Date:2010-09-06

In Through Low Light and Trees, Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies have created an often mesmerising album, lush with ghostly harmonies and intricate orchestrations. From the opening 'Summer Fades', the Smoke Fairies sound like they've been beamed in from a folk cafe in Greenwich Village Circa '61: "Can we start something new, just me and you? Through low light and tress, is a future unseen..." they sing over slowly building strings. It's a really atmospheric opening to the album that draws you in with its softly sung rallying cry. The brooding 'Devil in My Mind' keeps the mood medative and melancholy: "Oh, I can feel it breathe inside/ Oh, the devil in my mind" and reveals a dark heart at the centre of many of these often sweetly delivered pieces.

'Hotel Room' picks up the pace a bit, combining the Fairies Joan Baez-esque vocals, with subtle blues guitar work, nimble drums and an infectious coda: "You're like a light beam through my shaking skies...You woke me up..." These songs, although clearly influenced by 60s folk music, don't have Greenwich Village's early protest themes and mainly concern themselves with personal musings, which of course is no criticism at all. The gorgeous 'Erie Lackawanna' contains the line "In this kitchen we would laugh and sing, now I eat alone at Burger King", all sung with a sincerity and pureness of delivery that makes me feel kinda guilty for finding it funny. The songs chorus of "I can see a wrecking ball coming for the house..." is faintly reminiscent of PJ Harvey with its understated sense of menace and restraint. It's probably the albums finest moment. Head, who has often worked with Ms Harvey, produced the album. While the Smoke Fairies musical links to Polly Harvey seem tenuous at best, it's Head's crisp production that puts the Fairies vocals and song-craft to the fore with a clarity that puts these songs in the room with you.

'Morning Blues', with its campfire heartbreak, could be Neil Young circa Harvest Moon (albeit less countrified), with simple sentiments and reflections on a fragile love affair: "...and the only truth I know is that in the morning you'll be gone". 'Strange Moon Rising' matches a propulsive, slick blues riff to far-off harmonies and a genuine sense of unrest. It's a surprisingly gripping listen. Overall, Smoke Fairies deliver a fairly traditional folk/blues album of quiet delights - having more in common with Joni Mitchell and Neil Young then Joanna Newsom. In this sense there's an affinity with Laura Marling's folk musings, who the Fairies toured with recently in America. If I could make any criticism, it would that the album sometimes strays into simply sounding 'pleasant' when more often than not it's so much more engaging then that phrase suggests.

So while Through Low Light and Trees hardly offers anything new, it's a satisfying and accomplished album with subtleties that reveal themselves through repeated listens. "Some things are secrets people die with," they sing on the excellent 'Storm Song'; it sums up the album's sense of whispered intrigue well.

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