5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
FROM SUNSHINE TO BLISS,
This review is from: Through Low Light And Trees (Audio CD)
Each release by Smoke Fairies is driven by a strong sense of time or place. Their first elusive album, `Strange The Things' played the opening, stirring bars in what has become a fascinating canon of work, characterised by a natural flair for following the right tune, or the inspiration of a place.
Those principles made that 2005 release an explosion of ideas, and in the intervening years the band have dodged any convenient or conventional development, releasing the equivalent of another two albums though various singles, downloads, EPs and demos. Singles such as `Living With Ghosts', Sunshine and `Gastown' have been signposts of the evolving live tradition of Smoke Fairies: warm, distinct and musically agile.
`Through Low Light and Trees' colours a new landscape. It is a proper album: honed and delivered in one setting, Cornwall, and seasoned by the weather, the light and the cycles of some unknown corner of that special place.
`Summer Fades' is a significant opener: understated, melodic and subtle in its invocation of the originalities of autumn. At the same time, the band emerges with an assured restraint: voice, guitars, viola, bass, drums, the last three instruments surging through a number of songs with a muscular pulse.
The next two songs, `Devil In My Mind' and `Hotel Room' - which swerve and swagger and mutter with late night insights - might be pigeonholed as `bluesy'. But they simply take the principles of what some would call `folkier' songs and let the musicianship swell. The band have spent years on the road playing their way out of any convenient category and `Through Low Light And Trees' proves this.
`Dragon' follows, an unexpected musical allegory: piano and voices playing a melody like a nursery rhyme, against a tale of devastation caused by a mythical beast, like some current disaster.
The band have made a number of vinyl releases and this album seems made for that medium, with the first five songs expansive in their range, and `side two' convincingly aligned with the recording's environment, via much more than the songs' titles. `Strange Moon Rising' shudders with the images and discords of a dark and dislocated outing, while `Morning Blues' recalls the earlier cover of Orbison's `It's Over'. But this is better: a more expansive, compelling tune, with Katherine Blamire's lead vocals perfectly pitched against Jessica Davies' distant whirr.
`Storm Song' captures the record's essence: a simple, saddened verse, set against a chorus torn by grief, but secured by the broad notes of Neil Walsh's viola; as in `Erie Lackawanna', each note and syllable is penetratingly clear.
The album concludes with the atmospheric, almost casual chords of `Feeling Is Turning Blue', around which a wistful solo is twisted, and the mutating chorus murmurs the tale of broken friendship: `Maybe it's something you learn,/ You take as much away before you crash and burn'. Then `After The Rain', returns us to the simple ingredients which flavour of all Smoke Fairies' work. Here: one guitar, harmonics, that neat combination of longing and fulfilment.
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Initial post: 8 Feb 2011 22:10:50 GMT
G. P. Wheelwright says:
A very studied and enthusiastic review. I'm going to get this album on the strength of this and comments i've heard elsewhere. Thanks.
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