supported by Counter's Creek
The Slaughtered Lamb, London
17 Sep 2017
I think I like The Times' description of Firefly Burning best: "ideal for anybody who wishes Kate Bush were a bit more arty or Steve Reich were a lot more folky". The band have been around for some years now, part art-folk, part avant-pop, reviewed by prog and folk magazines alike. They were playing a pair of dates previewing new material.
First up were Counter's Creek, an instrumental folk trio from Walthamstow on fiddle, pipes and guitar. Not my usual kind of music, all jigs and reels, but good stuff.
Then Firefly Burning. The band are Bea Hankey (voice), Jack Ross (guitars, drum), James Redwood (violin, mandolin), John Barber (synths, gamelan, piano) and Sam Glazer (cello), and all those people and instruments barely fitted on the small Slaughtered Lamb stage. The venue seemed full, so just getting into a three figure audience, I would guess. The band opened with "Beloved" from their second album, Skeleton Hill, and partway through they played "I am a Bomb" from the same album, both having become signature pieces for the group.
But the rest of the set was around seven new pieces from their planned third album, which they'll be recording in October at Aldeburgh Music in Suffolk. I think one was familiar from a late 2016 show, but I had not heard the rest and I'm not certain what details I can remember! Hankey said they have written more lyrics themselves for the third album, exposing themselves more, with songs of loss, hope and love. Their first new piece was "Follow", a similar piece to "Beloved", and partly inspired by the feeling of walking over tactile pavements(!).
A song about a kitsch greeting card was next and showed the fun side of the band. There was a spacey song about the stars, inspired by Hankey's love of dystopian SF, one of my favourites of the new material. Other new pieces included "Lost" and a piece entitled "Call to Me" that interpolated Thomas Hardy's poem "The Voice" with additional lyrics from Hankey. Hankey did all the talking from the stage in between songs and was charming in her explanations of the new material. After sustained applause, they came back to encore with a cover of Radiohead's "Fake Plastic Trees".
The new material offers the Firefly Burning recipe of Hankey's dramatic and enveloping vocals, harmony vocals by the band, some driving melodies, and unusual rhythmic parts, all within a minimalist/avant-folk atmosphere. The band are great live; I recommend both previous albums and look forward to the third one.