It has been thirteen years since Cambridge’s Fuzzy Lights released their debut album, A Distant Voice, and after an eight-year hiatus, fans of the band could be forgiven for wondering if we’d ever hear from them again. Thankfully, last Friday Fuzzy Lights released Burials, the band’s fourth album and first since their critically lauded 2013 offering, Rule Of Twelfths.
When deciding to return, Fuzzy Lights also made the decision to do things a little differently. While previous records have leant heavily on the psych-folk sounds of bands like Trees or Trembling Bells, here Fuzzy Lights decided to rip up the folk-rock rule book. While elements remain, Rachel Watkins’ spectral vocals are still the perfect middle ground of Sandy Denny and Karen Dalton, much of this record feels like a re-invention of their sound, digging deeper into their musical roots. Take a track like The Graveyard Song, its lyrical story, an imagining of the perception of time from the contrasting views of a yew tree and a young woman, is a classic folk-inspired tale, yet where does that marching drum beat come from? What is this blast of distorted electric guitar and wailing violin? And why does it suddenly sound like a post-rock song? This is Fuzzy Lights 2.0, re-inventing the folk-rock playbook and dragging it screaming through an array of influences whether it’s the smooth, textural flow of Maiden’s Call, the Tinariwen-like Saharan guitar tones of Under The Waves or the calm yet unnerving wall of noise that closes the record on The Gathering Storm. Lyrically too, this record is something of a departure, it has a distinctly modern feel, Under The Waves is a Coral Reef inspired howl to tackle the climate change crisis, while The Gathering Storm is a rallying cry for those who stood for Women’s Rights to continue the fight against prejudice of all kinds. Perhaps the most striking moment is the deeply personal offering, The Maidens Call a song of loss relating to a miscarriage Rachel suffered, honestly documenting that moment whilst also finding connection and gratitude with other women who have lived through the same experience. This feels like Fuzzy Lights’ most unique, reflective and ambitious record to date, it might be eight years in the making, but Burials is definitely worth the wait.
FTR: For those who don’t know who are Fuzzy Lights?
We are Rachel, Xavier, Chris, Dan and Mark. We’ve been making music together in the current incarnation of Fuzzy Lights for around 11 years with distorted violins, electric guitars, bass and drums. Someone just described us as kraut-folk, but we’re not sure there is a bin for that in record shops yet, or whether there will ever be one.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
Our first show was as a 2-piece (Rachel & Xavier), in an old primary school planned for demolition just off Mill Road in Cambridge. Some folks were living there and turned the place into an arts/music venue, there was always something interesting going on. Our whole set was completely improvised, on amplified acoustic violin and electric guitar. Someone spontaneously started reciting poetry over the top while we were playing. We then spent a couple of years in that format before evolving into the line-up we have today.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
Some of us have had the opportunity to learn an instrument from an early age, but we’ve all always had a drive to create and express ourselves through the creation of music. However, all forms of art are intrinsically linked and create an immersive whole. The lyrics on this album stem from Rachel’s love of poetry and we have used this to create stories and images within the music. Visual arts also powerfully interact with the songs, both through the videos made by us and K. Craig(Maiden’s Call, Under the Waves, Sirens) and the photo featured on the album sleeve, by Jamie Cameron.
There is also something magical about playing music live with other people, something about an unspoken connection. Apparently there is synchronization of electrical activity in the right hemisphere of the brain when people play music together, and between performers and the audience. When we played with Damo Suzuki last year he said “tonight we don’t make music, we make energy”, and this is really what this is all about, creating and sharing energy. This is something we’ve all recently sorely missed.
FTR: What can people expect from the Fuzzy Lights live show?
People have been fooled by the ‘folk’ tag and don’t realise that we will be loud. Improvisation is also a key part of any Fuzzy Lights show. The songs themselves often stem from improvised jams that become condensed and refined over time and the recording itself is more of a snap shot in the evolution of a particular piece, capturing a moment in time. We carry this tone of improvisation into our live shows where we allow this evolution to continue, stretching and moulding the songs over their original framework leaving space for improvisation and a unique experience each time we play.
FTR: What’s next for Fuzzy Lights?
As with pretty much every other band at the moment we’re pinning our hopes on being able to play some actual gigs soon. We’ve got a few UK dates provisionally booked towards the end of October and are tentatively making plans for further touring in 2022. We’ve also got a few tracks in various stages of completion that didn’t get included on the recent record, so all being well we won’t have to wait another 8 years before the next Fuzzy Lights release.
They Listen To…
Lighting Bug – September Song
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – The Offbeat
Faro – Heron Oblivion
Laurie Spiegel – Patchwork
Actress x London Contemporary – LAGEOS
Burials is out now via Meadows. For more information on Fuzzy Lights visit http://www.fuzzylights.bandcamp.com/