Gig review: Smoke Fairies


THERE'S certainly nothing misleading about the Smoke Fairies' name, albeit that the mists from which these eldritch musical creatures – aka childhood friends Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies – emerge are those of both their native rural Sussex and the Louisiana bayou, the pair having spent a formative post-college year in New Orleans. Championed by no less eminent a tastemaker than Jack White, who produced and played on one of their early singles, they've also toured with Bryan Ferry and The Handsome Family, honing a sound centred equally on their spectral chiaroscuro harmonies and downbeat bluesy guitar work. Meanwhile, song titles like Strange Moon Rising, Living With Ghosts and Summer Fades – plus last year's debut album, Through Low Light and Trees – reflect the pastoral, folkloric, regretful bent of their lyrics.

Given that touring experience, though, now that they're headlining their own shows, the duo's paucity of stagecraft or stage presence, in favour of wilfully gauche, shoegazing reticence, was surprising, the more so since they professed to be amped up on unfamiliar quantities of Red Bull, suggesting a customary degree of languor bordering on the somnolent.

Hide Ad

Their artfully intertwined vocals, complemented by Noel Walsh's viola, are undoubtedly a potent asset, but they often struggled to be heard over darkly menacing guitar lines – reinforced here with bass and drums – and while there were plenty of interesting echoes in play, including Fairport, Led Zep, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Tinariwen and English madrigals, they seemed considerably distant from the Smoke Fairies' own, glumly unvarying material.