In the making of their new album Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, Smoke Fairies drew inspiration from mysteries both real and imagined: sea monsters, flocks of crows taking flight in extravagant formation, strange creatures dwelling in the mud near their new South London abode. With their mesmeric vocal presence and starkly poetic lyrics, singer / multi-instrumentalists Katherine Blamire and Jessica Davies embed all that odd magic into songs that speak to the realities of modern times - isolation, insomnia, an overall unease with the state of the world - and ultimately uncover an unlikely sense of hope.
Produced by Phil Ek (Fleet Foxes, The Black Angels, The Shins), Darkness Brings The Wonders Home merges Smoke Fairies’ musings and meditations with a decidedly guitar-driven sound, the duo’s unearthly harmonies endlessly floating atop lead-heavy riffs. Over the course of a rigorous month-long session in Seattle, Smoke Fairies adopted a purposely intimate approach to achieving that singular sonic tone.
While Smoke Fairies initially intended to return to the earthy folk of early work like 2011’s Through Low Light and Trees, the duo soon found themselves assuming a new boldness in their guitar style and, in turn, pushing into much wilder terrain. In doing so, Blamire and Davies spent much of their time perusing the guitar shop near Ek’s chosen studio, experimenting with countless guitars and amps to augment the album’s sonic palette.
Opening with On the Wing, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home quickly proves the power of matching that pummeling guitar work with Smoke Fairies’ finespun songwriting. With its woozy intensity and spellbinding rhythms, the song also introduces one of the album’s most prominent themes: the often-futile attempts at true connection at a time when the most impetuous behavior tends to prevail.
An album deeply informed by aberrations of nature, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home delves into a different kind of fascination on Out of the Woods—a song sparked from Smoke Fairies’ study of the overgrown pond behind their house. Another song attuned to the fear of the unknown, the hypnotically ominous Chew Your Bones mines inspiration from the titular beast of Sarah Perry’s novel The Essex Serpent and from a local urban myth involving a character called The Croydon Cat Killer.
Despite its many wanderings into otherworldly territory, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home remains rooted in real-life anxieties, particularly on tracks like the fluttering and urgent Don’t You Want to Spiral Out of Control. Throughout Darkness Brings The Wonders Home, Smoke Fairies adorn their observations with so many exquisite flourishes: the swinging melodies and elegant shredding of Elevator, the girl-group harmonies and spiky riffs of Disconnect, the delicate tension between taut guitar lines and swooning vocals on Chocolate Rabbit.
For Smoke Fairies, Darkness Brings The Wonders Home signals a strengthening of the inextricable bond they’ve forged through the years.