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The White Fires of Venus

"Ocean View"


Genre: Acoustic

Sound description: If you had to pick exactly one word to describe the sound of the White Fires of Venus, it would have to be “mellow.” Of all the singer/songwriters in Santa Barbara, Jeff Sparks’s work on Skin and Light stands out as the CD you want to play while wrapped up in a blanket and watching the rain fall, sitting around a fire, or lounging on a lazy sun-saturated Sunday afternoon.
Sparks began his musical career with the ‘90s space-rock band, Primitive Radio Gods-who scored big with their hit “Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand”-but left the band in 2001 to pursue his own music, working on film soundtracks and releasing albums under the names Duplex and Sparkles in the Milk. The bands played shows around town at SOhO and at Abbot’s Habit in Venice Beach, but Sparks soon found himself penning softer material that didn’t fit in with the Duplex sound. He attributed a good deal of the change to his writing style. “I usually write late at night, which accounts for the whispering vocal style. : I’m trying not to piss off the neighbors,” Sparks said. Inspired by the Denis Johnson poem, “Jesus’ Son,” Sparks created yet another moniker for himself and started recording with Corporate Nightmare Records as the White Fires of Venus. His late-night collection of material became Skin and Light, and follows in the footsteps of other acoustic, atmospheric lullaby rock, evoking strains of Elliott Smith, Leonard Cohen, and Iron and Wine, but still standing out with songs like “Belladonna” and “Ocean View,” which reflect the melodious Santa Barbara shores they were recorded near. -Rachel Weight

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Intimate, atmospheric folk-rock, perfect for late-night listening, a long drive, or nursing a morning-after hangover.

Hushed vocals, finger-picked acoustic guitar, soaring e-bow, touches of vibraphone, and electric piano make Skin and Light the perfect record for late night chill-out sessions, rainy afternoons, or headphone listening. Singer/songwriter Jeff Sparks, who also records more rocking fare under the names Duplex and Sparkles in the Milk, momentarily lays down his electric guitar, offering up an album that, in many ways, continues where his late 90s work with space-rockers Primitive Radio Gods left off. Songs like “Ocean View” and “On the Rise” are spiritual brethren to Primitive Radio Gods tracks like “Future Followers of Erika” and “Fading Out;” with nods to such artists as Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, Red House Painters, Leonard Cohen, and Elliot Smith.

The calm, oceanic vibe of the record may partially be attributed to the locale where it was created: the lovely coastal city of Santa Barbara, California. Skin and Light is one of the first releases on Corporate Nightmare Records, a Santa Barbara-based indie label co-owned by Zach Madden, who also lent his production chops and skills as a drummer to the album. Producer Craig Costigan recorded several additional tracks at his S.B. studio, Garage Majal. The resulting music conjures up expansive views, warm, sensual nights, and sun-and-alcohol soaked afternoons on the sleepy Central Coast.

In recent years a new crop of artists have emerged for whom “quiet is the new loud:” Iron and Wine, Belle and Sebastian, Jose Gonzales, and The Kings of Convenience, to name a few. The White Fires of Venus follow humbly in this tradition, and Skin and Light would fit nicely into any music collection already filled with the likes of The Blue Nile, Mazzy Star, American Music Club, or Sun Kil Moon.

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Santa Barbara, CA


Nick Drake, Pink Floyd, Red House Painters, Leonard Cohen, Elliot Smith

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