Smoke Fairies' second official album sees them moving forward on several fronts: musically, thematically and lyrically. This expanded edition includes three additional tracks which enhance and diversify further this excellent piece of work. More of them later. There is a muscular melancholy in the two singles positioned near the beginning of the album. `Let Me Know' is brief piece of thrusting, but controlled longing, while `The Three of Us' is a gutsy and expansive exploration of the impact of a journey upon relationships and identity, guitars and cymbals slashing through the swaggering rhythm section. The lyrics seem stark and functionally descriptive at first, until the tensions between the `three of us' explode into controlled frustration: `Could this be where we part?' Between these two tracks, nestles `Awake', a sweet melody elevated to something special by the interplay of guitars and the crescendo of its instrumental conclusion. Lines like these could slip unnoticed, but shouldn't: `I woke too soon,/ Soft blinds of dawn in the morning./ The world so quiet./ Dreaming in ultraviolet./ Are you awake?/ Do you feel the space/ That was once filled by me/ Send shivers through the morning?' The piano line woven through `Daylight' sways across the song, but its seductive dreaminess is quickly dislocated by an insistent metre and unsettling enquiries like: `Is there much further now, are you losing the meaning?' or ` Is this the year when we lose our direction?' The guitar line that follows appears jagged and directionless but adjusts itself cleverly to resolve the end of the song. The beguiling title track is a new departure, introduced with unaccompanied vocals, then swelling slowly like a cautious anthem for what we might think and how we might feel as the possibilities aroused by a nocturnal wander gather a head of steam. `Take Me Down When You Go' sounds like the beginning of a Side Two from LP days: abrupt yet restrained both in its melody and sentiment: `Something dies when you fall in love./ Something lives when you've had enough'. The sense of loss, balanced by release is set cleverly against a tautly-constructed tune and a barrage of ironic hot/ cold imagery. By the end, you don't know whether to feel happy or sad, and that's the point. On the other hand. `Feel It Coming Near' is a delicious piece of bluesy, boozy scene setting. The delicate guitar line, and lyrical sense of premonition is effortlessly and repeatedly sidestepped as the band allow the song to capture a sense of elemental fear and wonder through a stirring yet unsettling chorus. The tone of the album shifts once again with the light electrical brush strokes of `Hideaway', almost child-like at the outset. The trick of the song is in its delayed and brief chorus, accompanied by a wider sound, full of a harder resolve. This leads deftly into the dry tones of `Version Of The Future', which is pleasingly exploratory, like `Blood Speaks'. This deluxe version of `Blood Speaks' concludes with three further tracks, something of a coup de grace, particularly since they follow so adeptly the `official' concluding song, the superb, `Film Reel'. Taken together, the four songs illustrate the diversity of the band's work through the range of what each achieves - at a lower tempo. The lyrics of the first are laid over a delicious guitar duet: `I saw my life pass like a film reel', As the song evolves, distant and distorted voices hover into the background and one electric guitar line gently asserts itself upon song's conclusion, affirming its tribute to assured regret. `Radio Clicks On' and `The Wireless' bubble playfully and work as both pastiche and carefully crafted vignettes of the prompts for love, and its flippancies. They are bisected by the `The Bells' a beautifully constructed recollection of child and parenthood. The enveloping melody is set off subtly by lyrics which underline the band's complementary gifts; `I remember you called me back at dusk./ Crows stirred in the branches over us./ You were stood in the doorway,/ In blooms of swirling dust.' This is the way they make their music, riven with deliberate and intricate poetic contradictions. Its self-doubts and yearnings peel themselves away from convention or trend, where nothing is fixed and the only movement is forwards.
There's nothing more to add to the excellent review written before this. I consider the debut of Smoke Fairies one of the better cd I've listened to in the last two years and I hadn't high expectations on the second album, because experience has always told me that the sequel is newer so good as the first one.
Blood Speaks is really different. More bluesy and less folk has disoriented my expectations and hasn't fallen in the trap of the confrontation with the debut.
The class and inspiration is intact. Probably I will love it less than the previous one, but I feel the desire to listen to Blood Speaks really often.
Worth the price for "Feel it coming near" all on its own but there's much more here. I've been playing this for months and it just gets better with every listen. Smoke Fairies are way ahead of the pack.
Following quickly on the heels of 2010's stirring debut "Through Low Life And Trees", Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire navigate the minefield of 'difficult second album syndrome' with mostly successful results.
The formula remains much the same, that now familiar melange of traditional English-rose folky voices and Delta blues motifs much to the fore, only a little darker and at times more strident than last time out.
The haunting "Awake", awash with sumptuous harmonies, "Feel It Coming Near", "Hideaway" and "Version of The Future" linger longest in the memory on first listen, whilst the title track suggests that The Roches might possibly be a guilty secret somewhere in the girls' music collection.
Two of the three bonus tracks on the Deluxe Edition, "Radio Clicks On" and "Bells", the latter building to an Enya-esque climax, are as good as anything else on the record, a refreshing break with convention that normally fails to see beyond the bare marketing opportunity of bunging on a few extra songs that otherwise wouldn't see the light of the day. The third bonus track "The Wireless" is slightly less memorable, though, and sounds like it could even have been an out-take from the first album.
The Smoke Fairies' highly distinctive style does make you wonder how long they can tread this same path without some kind of sharp turn to the right or left but, even without a song quite as satisfying as "Strange Moon Rising", this will do well enough for now.