Firefly Burning: Skeleton Hill

Minimalist chamber-folk draws out Talk Talk man.

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Apart from his early work with Tight Fit and The Nolans, Tim Friese-Greene isn’t known for producing any old rubbish.

The man whose credits include the last four Talk Talk albums emerges here for his first production duties in 13 years. Of folk-prog experimentalists Firefly Burning, he’s declared, “An unidentifiable mash-up of so many things… yet in a language I instinctively understood.” With flecks of Gentle Giant, Joni Mitchell and Fleet Foxes, the East London quintet (using violins and cellos sparingly but effectively) are perhaps too pure and church-y to pass as rock music, but their lofty innocence lures you back to listen again. Vocalist Bea Hankey, Friese-Greene has said, “sings like an angel on crystal meth”. There are ridiculously complex, enterprising things going on vocally, not just in Hankey’s choirgirl stylings – which recall a slightly less strident Annie Haslam – but also in the backing harmonies. Skeleton Hill is a contemporary folk album with art-prog leanings: if Björk got into The Wicker Man, it’d be almost as unintentionally spooky as this. Petrarch and Beloved are hymnal; _Pioneer _revives the great Shelleyan Orphan. Cleansing.

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has written about music, films, and art for innumerable outlets. His new book The Velvet Underground is out April 4. He has also published books on Lou Reed, Elton John, the Gothic arts, Talk Talk, Kate Moss, Scarlett Johansson, Abba, Tom Jones and others. Among his interviewees over the years have been David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Patti Smith, Debbie Harry, Bryan Ferry, Al Green, Tom Waits & Lou Reed. Born in North Wales, he lives in London.