This is yet another of those pre-release streams, a concept that is proving to be rather handy this week as it means that I’m not sat here on Monday what to listen to first out of this, the Soulsavers album or the other one that’s due to drop on the same day. Having said that, it’s been a bit of a bugger today, as this one coincides with the Sigur Rós livestream that I am currently typing away on in another window as I try to do this intro at the same time so I can get this finished in some sort of sensible timeframe.
The first album from the Smoke Fairies was a blind buy back in 2010 that soon became (and remains) a firm favourite of mine. The mixture of gentle, careworn British folk married to a murkier US blues is something that worked sublimely well in the hands and – especially – voices of Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies and so hopes are naturally high for this next collection.
Straight from the off, opener Let Me Know carries the hallmarks of the duo’s sound, with their guitars complimenting each other in similar manner to their voices. But there is a difference in tone: the voices have an urgent edge to them, the guitars are fuzzier and less gentle. This is continued in the haunting and haunted tones of Awake, providing a richer sound to expand their ideas and create an atmosphere.
There has been much said elsewhere that Blood Speaks leans slightly more towards the Western side of the Atlantic Ocean, but I’m not convinced of this. Certainly the Americanisms are more pronounced, and Katherine and Jessica have put more of their overseas experiences into this record, but at the same time the English side has also been accentuated and finely-tuned so that the end result is something that expands on all the ideas and directions that made Through Low Light And Trees such a joy. The main difference between then and now is that the two main influences are less polarised than before, the English and American blended closer together to come up with something that – depending on what you’re listening out for at any given time – allows either side of the pond to shine without dulling the other.
Having more of a band presence has helped further the twosome’s musical personality. Odd as that sounds, all the extra sounds and instruments that have been brought into Blood Speaks bring out the best in the Smoke Fairies’ familiar and previously minimal sound by giving it just the right tools to take their cyclic riffs and let them truly soar.
Initial favourites include the quietly anthemic title track reminiscent of Peter Gabriel in his pomp, the noisy and fun The Three Of Us, the stunning Kate Bush-esque pastoral opera of Hideaway and the relaxed groove of Take Me Down When You Go that shows off the duo’s skills as complimentary guitarists, each part suiting the other perfectly. There’s a great variety in this collection of songs that further the character of these artists to a great extent. Another fantastic record from the Smoke Fairies, this is a career to be followed intently, and hopefully for a very long time.
Blood Speaks is out this coming Monday/Tuesday, if you can’t wait (and you really shouldn’t), it’s streaming here.