I’m typing this one in a hurry as I’m off down South tomorrow, and fairly grateful that the weather has let up enough for me not to be approaching this in abject terror. Then again, the destination with its sultry tropical promises of many benches, a golf course that isn’t so much ‘crazy’ as ‘really depressed’ and a rock in the middle of a lawn where the first ever motor racing Grand Prix took place (presumably the rock appeared afterwards, or the sport probably wouldn’t have taken off). So, the next couple of bits might be delayed till the weekend while I try to find a free wifi spot, although in a town where the benches seem to outnumber the population by a fair-sized margin in the winter, this may be tricky. So, the next installment may well be transmitted from the front garden of someone whose wireless security password is “password”…
Number 4: Smoke Fairies – Through Low Light and Trees
Buying this was a result of my monthly random picking of something out of the review section of Mojo Magazine, whether it be by virtue of an interesting writeup, intriguing musical description or interesting cover art. With this, it was all three, particularly the latter where an image of the Fairies that initially looks like they’re lit by some ghostly, ethereal source but the out-of-focus wiper at the bottom of the shot places them in front of a car. And this image is highly apt for the sound of the Smoke Fairies’ music, where old English folk laments blend with a more up-to-date Southern American blues, which sounds as if it possibly couldn’t work if it wasn’t handled as deftly as this.
The use of PJ Harvey’s producer of choice, Head, was an inspired move, as he helped expand the outlook of Katherine and Jessica into a more ‘band’ project, and rather than push what they had already done on previous single and EP releases into the background, the songs available on this album have blossomed without losing losing the core of what made them so good in the first place.
Opener Summer Fades builds up almost agonisingly slowly, such is the patience of the song and the confidence that the payoff is its own reward. And the wonder that this one song produces in the listener continues right through the entire album, as each song touches on so many different aspects of traditional folk vocal phrasing laid over music that evokes in turn Clannad, The Doors, Simon and Garfunkel and the Unthanks.
It seems from this description that the result lacks cohesion, but that couldn’t be further from the truth as Through Low Light and Trees as a whole has a wonderful character all its own and each song is held firmly in place by its neighbours.
It’s an album that takes its geographical meanderings firmly in its stride, adding each new influence to the whole rather than replacing older aspects. It’s a fresh approach to each and every genre that is arranged and performed here, and listening to it is a truly magical and enthralling experience.