Firefly Burning are a 5-piece ensemble from east London who create cinematic songs - part art-folk song, part minimalist chamber music. With eclectic musical tastes and a background in free improvisation their collaborative songwriting makes impressionistic music described as ‘vital and indefinable’.
On 9 March 2015 the innovative pop experimentalists released their second album on Fathom Records. Called Skeleton Hill, the 10 track record was created in collaboration with Tim Friese-Greene (Talk Talk, Heligoland) who has returned to the producers chair for the first time in 13 years. After many months of intense collaboration 'Skeleton Hill' heralds a new phase for the band, whose heart-on-sleeve vocals and hypnotic textures have been injected with a new directness and pop sensibility.
Of the collaboration Tim says 'I caught Firefly Burning quite by chance when they were supporting North Sea Radio Orchestra in a church behind Denmark Street, and it was the first time in 13 years that I had felt sufficiently captivated by a band to want to go into the studio with them. They were such an unidentifiable mash-up of so many things, and yet I found it instantly made sense to me; it was in a language I instinctively understood. There was clearly some sophisticated musical thinking going on, but it never felt overly clever or technical; on the contrary, it seemed to be perfectly in tune with the natural order of things, and completely unforced.'
The influences on the record are varied. Echoes of Steve Reich mingle with the lyricism of Joni Mitchell, Bjorkian eccentricity sits next to folk-like purity and weaving a path through it all is Bea Hankeys mesmerising voice.
Lyrics come from inside and outside the band. Soaring vocal harmonies in 'Beloved' and 'Night Ocean' match the meditative ecstasy of 13th century mystical Persian poet Rumi, whilst in 'Unwritten' Tim Ross's lyrics transport the listener into an unmistakably 21st century urban dystopia. Bea herself has penned several of the lyrics, adding a personal voice to songs such as Pioneer' and White Noise. At the heart of the album is the title track which evokes a space and otherness through close vocal harmonies, pulsing guitar patterns and achingly sparse string sounds.
According to the band 'we knew as soon as we started chatting with Tim that we had found someone who could help us translate the energy of our live sound into the studio. It was a no-brainer to make a record with him - we are all massive fans of his work, especially the late Talk Talk albums. Our work together started really early on in the writing process and involved loads of time hanging out in Cornwall and London going over songs again and again until we were happy. By the time we got to the studio we had a totally shared vision of what the record should sound like.'
The album (which follows their low key debut Lightships) was recorded between Nov 2012 and Summer 2013 at Mount Harry in East Sussex. Engineer Phill Brown built a studio throughout this arcadian manor house and used an array of digital and vintage analogue equipment to capture the bands sound - ranging from Indonesian percussion and distorted guitars to strings and electronics.
Skeleton Hill is a rich collaboration between the band and Friese-Greene, whose sense of adventure and refusal to be bound by genre-conventions make him the perfect partner for these restless musical souls.
Firefly Burning are Bea Hankey (voice), Jack Ross (Guitars, percussion), James Redwood (violin, mandolin), John Barber (piano, gamelan, synths), Sam Glazer (cello).
“strange but soaring, dense but addictive…ideal for anybody who wishes Kate Bush were a bit more arty or Steve Reich were a lot more folky” 4**** - The Times on Skeleton Hill
“varied, multifaceted music…a neat tapestry that is a joy to unravel” 4**** - Music OHM on Skeleton Hill
‘the music is so utterly hypnotic...firefly are intoxicating, beautiful and affirming’ - Matchbox Magazine
‘a vital, indefinable band. Like no other band I have seen before.’ - For Folks Sake
‘Beautiful, beautiful music. A bit like North Sea Radio Orchestra meets Kate Bush, but even that doesn’t do it justice.’ - Epileptic Gibbon Podcast
‘quirky, challenging and innovative music…uncompromising in their bold and stark musical vision.’ - Bright Young Folk
- Skeleton Hill, The Times ****
- Skeleton Hill, MOJO Magazine ****
- Skeleton Hill, MusicOMH ****
- Skeleton Hill, BurnMusicMag 4.5 / 5
- Skeleton Hill, GigSlutz.com ****
- Skeleton Hill, Penny Black
- Skeleton Hill, The Progressive Aspect
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