Album review: Smoke Fairies – Darkness Brings The Wonders Home

The smoke Fairies

The smoke Fairies - Credit: Archant

South London girls find the blues and shake them loose in this stirring, haunting return.

There's no doubt that Jessica Davies and Katherine Blamire make great winter music; the duo's first album in four years is perfectly timed to greet us in the bitter jaws of the season.

As well as plenty of hibernation-inducing imagery, the pair have perhaps been indulging in some on-trend mindfulness practice recently, Davies confiding that the titular darkness "helps you to see all the wonders of the world you hadn't noticed before… because you've been on autopilot for so long".

Recorded in Seattle over an intensive month-long session, Darkness draws inspiration from plenty of things we may miss in our modern-day tumult - beautiful and extravagant formations of flocks of crows, mud-dwelling creatures near the duo's south London home, and, erm, sea monsters.

The good news is the record is engaging, evocative and darkly groovy - the strings, piano and other stuffing from records of yore have been pulled out, with producer Phil Ek helping focus attention on letting their impressive, haunting harmonies cast a ghostly light on lean blues-guitar licks.

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There is introspective melancholy in spades, from the skulking heartbreak of Chew Your Bones to withering put-downs ("You're like a chocolate rabbit, you're hollow inside / You leave me unsatisfied") and gently eddying riffs (Don't You Want To Spiral Out Of Control?).

There's grit, too - the crisp cymbal crashes and muscular guitar of infatuated lead single Out Of The Woods and the prowling menace of opening track On The Wing are two of the best - while Elevator's novel metaphor for failing to see eye to eye ("I got stuck between floors, between my mind and yours") is powered by grinding, gnarly rock guitar too.

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All of which leaves Smoke Fairies a long way from their folksy roots, but with probably their strongest, most singular record to date.

4/5 stars

+ Smoke Fairies play Hoxton Hall, Hackney, on February 6

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