Words by Matthew Osborne / Pics by Annick Wolfers
Kurt Cobain once wrote, “I miss the comfort in being sad,” and purveyors of sad music will note the truth in that seemingly contradictory line. I’ve experienced sadness, as I know you have. No passage through life would be complete without it.
During these times I have never found it helpful to turn to feel-good anthems to lift my soul. I take the elevator down to the depths, seeking out the most sorrowful sounds I can unearth to act as a balm for my woes.
Smoke Fairies’ Carried in Sound is such an album. Played entirely by members Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies, friends since high school, the album is an exploration of personal loss, grief, and isolation. Themes most of us will be all too familiar with over the course of the last three turbulent years since the group released their acclaimed Darkness Brings the Wonders Home in 2020, and just before the world closed in on itself.
“I listen out for lines that comfort me/So that I know I’m not so strange,” sings Katherine at the end of a particularly rousing instrumental during ‘Sticks and Stones’. On the gently arpeggiated ‘Part of It All’, come the lyrics: “You are not alone, the world is full/Of changes that can’t be rationalised.”
Sad music, however, must offer hope to be successful as a healer. “Everything happens for a reason,” notes Jessica Davies, “but equally, everything is a reaction.” Making sense of sadness, understanding what causes our tears to flow and using that to enrich our souls, to build us up as stronger, is often the quest of artists who deal in minor keys.
“I love the sound of things that are broken,” says Katherine, referring to the bits of broken furniture and second-hand instruments the duo used as percussion to give these mournful lullabies barely spectral beats. Crafting something beautiful from things that are broken, no matter how fragile and delicate the end result may be, held together with spiderwebs or hope, is a restorative experience.
Smoke Fairies’ sound has evolved from the blues-instructed grooves of their first single, ‘Gastown’, into something more ethereal. A hushed reverence hangs over these ten tracks, Jessica and Katherine’s perfectly matched vocals only slightly more than whispers.
The album’s restraint is a result of production conditions – Carried in Sound was recorded in a terraced house with the volume low to protect the neighbours – and the DIY intimacy has given the band strength.
“We do everything on our own terms,” says Jessica. “It feels incredibly empowering to be able to say that.”
I think it gives you strength too.
‘Vanishing Line’ – Smoke Fairies
Smoke Fairies release their new album, Carried in Sound, from 17 November – available through all major download and streaming platforms. The band are also currently touring the UK with a date at Metronome in Nottingham on 22 November.
For more on Smoke Fairies visit www.musicglue.com/smokefairies