By: Si Forster
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Released on June 8, 2015 via Self-release
Before I start, a Confession: I have not seen the Smoke Fairies perform live. I have had plenty of opportunities to have done so over the past few years and hope for more opportunities in the future, all I have for now is an apology to Katherine and Jessica although now I have this recording that illustrates what I have missed so far as well as going some way to getting up and out the next time they roll through.
When listening to a live record for the first time, my preferred method is to avoid reading the back cover, whack the lights down low and treat it as close to a gig as it’s possible to do in an apartment – standing at the back of the room as close to the fridge as possible also helps for that relaxing gig atmosphere, although there’s sadly little I can do about the ducks incessantly quacking outside…
Opening with ‘Fences’ and ‘The Water Waits’ sets out the Smoke Fairies’ stall for the evening with a performance that is calm, assured and with more than a hint of the personal about the whole affair that the space and audience within St. Pancras Old Church is happy to accommodate and that the band are equally happy to inhabit.
The addition to the duo’s intertwining circular guitar patterns and complementary vocal harmonies with occasional further instrumentation from road companions Rasputina brings extra light and shade to each song where they are present, drawing the music closer still to those listening in the audience and at home. The set on record here is culled largely from the Fairies’ early collection of singles, and this is a judicious selection given the setting which brings out the best of their more melancholic, lonelier compositions as they bounce off the walls and through their rapt audience, no better than during ‘Troubles’, accompanied by a suitably sorrowful viola backing from longterm associate Neil Walsh.
It’s possibly strange to describe a recorded experience as intimate, but this album quietly holds the attention to a quite singular effect. As mentioned at the top here, I have been a fan of the Smoke Fairies for a long time and while I can’t confirm that this does one of the two jobs of a live record in providing the present audience with a reminder of a wonderful evening (although I’m sure it does), I can happily state that it does the second one with aplomb, where the remote listener is left to curse themselves for not turning up in the first place but strengthen their resolve to leave the fridge behind and catch them at the next available opportunity.