Smoke Fairies Smoke Fairies on 2LP
Smoke Fairies’ outstanding new eponymously titled album shows the band in top form, combining their classic approach whilst exploring new forms of musical expression – but it is an album that they nearly didn't make. There was a moment after the release of Smoke Fairies’ last album (Blood Speaks, 2012) when Jessica Davies turned to musical partner Katherine Blamire and told her she was no longer sure whether Smoke Fairies should continue.
For Smoke Fairies the suggestion of not playing music together would potentially impact more than just their band – theirs was a friendship forged by music, by a shared ambition that had carried them from their schooldays and on to songwriting and performing together. “We started considering what would we do if we didn't do music,” recalls Davies, “and it was just a massive void.” Deciding that giving up on the band was “not an option,” Davies wrote a musical apology to Blamire that would become the stunning opening track of their album. “I just wanted to say sorry to her – sorry I scared you like that.”
In the six years since Smoke Fairies first entered a recording studio, they have made two critically acclaimed albums, supported on tours with Bryan Ferry, Richard Hawley and Laura Marling, and had a single released on Jack White’s Third Man Records; but for all the perceived glamour of a musical career, they were still sharing a house in Peckham and waiting for something to happen while they worked temp jobs around London.
But with the question now raised, Smoke Fairies were able to really take stock and reassess what the band truly meant to them. More than this, it allowed them to think about the type of album they wanted to make. They had earned a reputation for impressive live performances, for harmonies and intricate guitar playing, but what they now craved was something simpler and more direct. Blamire talks of secretly listening to pop music on the bus, trying to figure out “why it was popular, why it was good.” Davies tells how her own personal yardstick had become “anything with a drumbeat that made me dance around the kitchen.”
Smoke Fairies yearned for movement and forward momentum. They wanted to make an album that wasn't simply recorded live, but rather presented songs that were pored over, puzzled-out, polished and produced. In 2013 Blamire and Davies took themselves to a remote recording studio in Kent with producer Kristofer Harris. It was there that they set about crafting their latest album, calling on their bandmates and old touring friends such as drummer Andy Newmark (Sly and the Family Stone, Roxy Music, John Lennon) to help out.
The distance and sense of introspection also allowed for a shift in their songwriting techniques. Their lyrical style, too, has changed. The result is a remarkable set of songs, notable not only for their strength and robustness, but also a sense of experimentation. The sheer liberation Blamire and Davies felt at using synths for the first time is evident in tracks such as the irresistible “Your Own Silent Movie” and the beautifully compelling “Drinks and Dancing.” Their sublime voices still stand to the fore, and tracks like “Want It Forever” are lined with a deliciously bluesy skuzzy-ness. This may not be the sort of album you ever expected Smoke Fairies to make, but it is an extraordinary record – bracing, sensual and defiant – and one that promises an exciting musical future.
Smoke Fairies Smoke Fairies Track Listing:
1. We’ve Seen Birds
2. Eclipse Them All
3. Shadow Inversions
4. Hope Is Religion
5. Waiting For Something To Begin
6. Your Own Silent Movie
7. Misty Versions
8. Drinks and Dancing
10. Want It Forever
11. The Very Last Time
12. Are You Crazy?