“Bea Hankey sings like an angel on crystal meth” – Tim Friese-Greene
Innovative pop experimentalists Firefly Burning are to release their second album next March 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 producer’s 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 Friese-Greene 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 Hankey’s 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 band’s sound – ranging from Indonesian percussion and distorted guitars to strings and electronics.
Skeleton Hill is a rich collaboration between the band and Tim 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).
‘Skeleton Hill’ by Firefly Burning is scheduled for release on CD and MP3 download from 9 March 2015 on Fathom Records.