Orenda Fink - half of the acclaimed duo Azure Ray - has stayed busy sculpting a diverse and heralded career on her own since Azure Ray released their last album in 2003. She has remained a consistently creative and inventive force, whether through the eclectic, spiritual and cultural examination of her solo debut, Invisible Ones (2005); the lush pop of Art In Manila's Set The Woods On Fire(2007); or O+S's art project-turned-album self-titled debut (2009). Orenda now returns with Ask The Night, her second solo album and second project of 2009, to be released October 6th on Saddle Creek.
Orenda was born and raised in Birmingham, AL, and lived in Athens, GA, for years before transplanting to Omaha, NE, and now Los Angeles, CA. Ask The Night is very much a reflection of and homage to her Southern roots--the cultural and familial upbringing that helped to shape her aesthetic. Inspired by traditional American folk music and Southern Gothic literature, the album is a mix of both her personal experiences and stories (often parables) told in character.
Orenda's music always arises from a feeling and place at a particular moment or time. She had spent the past few years first releasing and touring around Invisible Ones and then with her bands Art In Manila and O+S, the latter of which sprung out of an art residency at Omaha's Bemis Center of Contemporary Arts and was as much an experiment in technology as in art. Upon finishing the O+S album, Orenda was ready to venture out again under her own name and craved an altogether different kind of project. She sought to create something very personal, simpler in style but no less intricate in craft, and something that required no computers or electronics of any kind.
It's fitting, then, that Ask The Night was primarily recorded live to 8-track by Stephen Bartolomei (Mal Madrigal) in Orenda's former Omaha basement as well as by Andy LeMaster (Now It's Overhead; production on Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Azure Ray) in his Athens, GA living room.
The songs on Ask The Night vary in tone and style, often defying simple categorization. Subtle genre hints emerge such as old-time waltz ("Sister"), country ("Alabama"), folk ("The Garden") and haunting bluegrass ("High Ground"), while the instrumentation includes acoustic and slide guitar, mandolin, banjo, accordion, violin, upright bass, pump organ... even saw. From the plaintive, melancholy opener "Why Is The Night Sad" to the evocative "That Certain-Something Spring" to the sweetly doleful closer "The Moon Knows", Ask The Night is a true collection of folk music, translated through Orenda's unique perspective, woven and intertwined by her distinctive, heart-rending vocals.
The album features a wide variety of players and singers, including producers Stephen Bartolomei and Andy LeMaster, Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse), Dan McCarthy (McCarthy Trenching), and Adrianne Verhoeven (Dri, The Anniversary, Art In Manila), among others.
Four songs on Ask The Night are collaborations with Birmingham, AL-based artist and poet Chris Lawson, who provided creative inspiration during the writing process as well as album artwork.
"Ask the Night" is a narrative journey
that is rooted in memories (both personal and collective)
and charts geographies (literal and metaphorical).
Orenda's stories are woven across gothic southern landscapes where shadows from the past intercept with living voices and emotions.
Fink's new songs are unique in their ability to distill moments of heartfelt loss and pain transcended through observation, knowing, even joy.
These are songs created from an unusual and deeply satisfying merging of real and dream worlds.
- Chris Lawson
July 17, 2012
Azure Ray’s new album, As Above So Below, is now available for pre-order in the online store.
The first track, “Scattered Like Leaves”, premiered today on Stereogum.