It’s both a constant source of annoyance and embarrassment when we haplessly overlook albums and records we’ve been sent, all are listened to almost immediately on arrival, some get put down having been played and somehow end up getting mislaid and temporarily forgotten (the out of sight out of mind syndrome) while some are scrutinised to the point of over play saturation to the point where having written the review in the mind eye‘s we‘ve somehow fooled ourselves that we‘ve nailed the same to text.
Why am I saying all this, its not as though you’re arsed unless you happen to be a pressing label rep looking for reviews or a young band desperate for any kind of encouraging written word recognition. I’ll tell you why – its because some time ago I was sent an unsolicited CD from – if I recall rightly (though bear with me I’ve since lost the accompanying hand written letter) from Rosemary’s manager, or at least someone connected either with Rosemary or their label MA2 quite possibly Matt (cue the correcting emails).
The CD was a album length demo by the Smoke Fairies, previously unknown to me but being the strange soul that I am when it comes to impromptu record purchases, the name of the band alone sold it for me conjuring up as it did a fantasy world of softly cured soft psyche.
Low and behold we were half right. Now at this point those of you still awake and impatiently waiting for me to get to some kind of point, this 9 track CD was indeed one of those rare occasions wherein all that was said in the opening paragraph applies. We did even get around to mentioning this lot in passing on a previous singled out missive promising all and sundry that this review would be forthcoming shortly. Good job they didn’t hold their breath.
In short one of the finest and most accomplished releases we’ve had the pleasure of hearing since those precious early career / debut outings from the likes of Shady Bard, the Owl Service and Hush the Many. Smoke Fairies feature the collective talents of long standing school friends Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire – two – you‘d suspect – woodland dwelling sirens who it seems occupy some strangely enchanted and fabled paradise steeped in mystery far from the maddening pre-occupation of modern day existence appearing momentarily like angelic apparitions or at least celestial foot soldiers arriving bearing intoxicating potions deftly containing the essences of a spiritually serene folk heritage long since lost to consumerist sacrifice.
Within this divinely absorbing collection a secret twilight haven exists, the melodies all at once captivating, enchanting and haunting, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Smoke Fairies had trip wired through another dimension such is their deft timeless artistry, bottling the essences of the crisply woody fragrances of Fahey‘s trademark delta signatures, the melodies are wrapped with a mesmerising lilt and crested seductively with a bewitching rustic song craft wherein elements of Drake (non more so than on the smoked drifting carefree allure of the softly tingling spectral glazes of ‘good man‘), Pentangle, Fairport Convention and the pagan un-worldliness of ’Wicker Man’ backdrops (as on the impeccably hand stitched pastel hues of the lazy eyed pastorals of ‘we had lost our minds’ with its haunting opining falsettos and shimmering incantations) are cross woven into a demurring tapestry. From the beckoning lulls of the darkly romantic arid cascades of the spirit like ’living with ghosts’ to the sedate side winds of dark desire of the accordion laced ’sea shanty’ this collection offers up a dusty vintage of finely casked rarefied nuggets. Elsewhere here the succulently hazing porch lit blues ramble of the humbling ’he’s moving on’ could easily pass – sentiment wise – for a youthful Kate Bush shimmying up to Elmore James while the parting ’tonight’ is caressfully bound with an inebriated off kilter intimate glow that if we didn’t know better we’d have said was the handiwork of a seriously chilled and wayward Laura Cantrell.
Key tracks –
Living with ghosts
We had lost our minds