Review : Orenda Fink - Ask The Night
PastemagazineOrenda Fink’s sophomore album leaves behind the sonic experimentation of her debut LP, Invisible Ones. Ask the Night is, instead, a nod to the singer’s Southern roots in a pared-down combination of guitars, strings and banjos that harkens back to another era: “Sister” showcases a clanging piano in a Frontier saloon, and “The Garden” is driven by the mournful violin of a Victorian folk song. What results is a deliciously melancholic mixture, epitomized in “Why is the Night Sad,” which laments, “And you know that you’re not safe here, through any crack in the floor, the water pours.”
The sadness is matched (or perhaps fueled) by a restlessness, a longing for a place articulated but mythological: for swampy Southern backwaters in “Half-Light,” for the journey home again in “Alabama,” for the illusive promise of the open road in “Wind.” Ask the Night is about the longing for transformation, for escape to someplace intangible but achingly beautiful. Its futile desire for transcendence provides the listener exactly that....full text
AllmusicWhen Azure Ray disbanded in 2004, Orenda Fink had little trouble regaining her balance. The songwriter had already juggled multiple bands during her golden years with Maria Taylor, and she continued bouncing from project to project after the split, exploring Haitian music with her 2005 solo debut and wrapping herself in lush pop arrangements during her lone album with Art in Manila. Released several years later, Ask the Night finds Fink in a rare state: restful, leisurely, and unadorned. This is a stripped-down album, devoid of computers and electronics of any kind, and Fink uses the opportunity to flex her muscles as a competent Southern Gothic-styled songwriter. Flanked by little more than her guitar, vocal harmonies, and a sparse Appalachian string band, she steers her voice through tales of Greyhound bus rides, the South, and swampy landscapes. The mood is hushed throughout, although songs like "The Mural" build up to towering climaxes before resuming their serene, earthy pitch. All of this is a far cry from Azure Ray's work, perhaps, but Ask the Night is often gorgeous in its simplicity. Consider this the intimate, moody cousin to Maria Taylor's LadyLuck, an equally endearing (but wildly dissimilar) solo album that came out several months prior....full text
PopmattersSaddle Creek’s one time reigning queen Jenny Lewis has made a name for herself by transforming herself from indie front woman to ‘70s California country-rock siren over the course of two solo albums. While Lewis is completely competent of selling her roots-heavy outings, Azure Ray member Orenda Fink has carved a similar niche on Lewis’ former label, and done so with equally astonishing results. If Fink’s first solo outing, Invisible Ones, hinted at the musician finding her own ground in a new territory, her newest release, Ask the Night, full-out embraces and expands on a singular, artistic identity.
Fink’s voice is lush, full, seductive, vulnerable, mature, and innocent at various times, and on rare occasions, all of those qualities at once. There’s a hint of a drawl in her ethereal, dreamy voice that elevates a song like opener “Why Is the Night Sad” from sounding flat and idle. Furthermore, Fink never looses herself in the production fabrics of Ask the Night, which is rare considering the mandolins, banjos, and acoustic guitars sometimes make themselves too obvious in their attempt to sound “southern”, as on “That Certain-Something Spring” or the too-blatantly-named “Alabama”.
When the various production tricks come together sincerely with Fink’s voice, the results are phenomenal: “The Garden” rises and swells with Fink commanding the tune with grace, elegance, and most importantly, hope. “Wind” favorably recalls classic Neil Young without sounding like a gimmick, and “Sister” casts a spooky shadow with Fink as a shrinking specter. “The Mural” stands as the most artistically stated track, with Fink sounding like Emmylou Harris leading a 4AD band....full text
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