Saddle Creek | Orenda Fink | Reviews


Invisible Ones

Author: Anne Valente
10/04/2005 | Playback St Louis | | Album Review
In a 2003 interview with Azure Ray, one-half of the feminine duo briefly mentioned a recent trip to Haiti and how it made her want to explore world music. Fast-forward to two years later, and a casual side note has bloomed into a full-length album—but this time, solo. What might have begun as a passing prediction for Azure Ray's future direction has instead become the debut solo material for Orenda Fink as she emerges from the twosome on her own. And a grand entrance she makes, the profundity of her experiences abroad formed into a sweeping, multifaceted album.

It's clear from the onset that the world has influenced Invisible Ones, the eye-opening weight of global travel seeping into every song that Fink has written. The ten tracks are marked by a radical shift outward, with Fink moving the focus from herself to the plight of the world at large. Or rather, many worlds at large, as the case may be—each song is a kind of parable in itself, detailing various troubles as Fink takes on a different persona for each one. Rather than wallowing in breakups and drug addictions, as many indie rockers are wont to do, Fink instead takes on the momentous task of multiple perspectives, none of which are her own. This kind of undertaking is the only logical result of being shaken from oneself, a natural consequence of being exposed to the world outside.

There is, of course, the risk of sounding insincere when dealing with extreme hardships that aren't your own, especially when you're a Saddle Creek rockette taking on everyone from the schizophrenic woman sitting next to you on a Greyhound to the comatose child confined to her bed. But Fink pulls it off amazingly well, aside from a few glitches of cheesy lyrics and oversimplification. And even when these moments of triteness do occur, the music itself is so gorgeous that you're probably likely to have missed any bad lyrics anyway. This is a woman who knows composition, her songs achieving that rich wall of sound that Phil Spector might still be able to appreciate from the witness stand today. There is a fullness here, made complete by well-crafted chord progressions and harmonies, over which her pleasantly addictive voice floats with ease. Fink's music is mature, both in sound and content, as she questions not only the lives of others but the fate of all human beings. On "No Evolution," a track that considers the incomprehensible notion that we will all one day die, she sings, "We still come, we still come and we still go/But I can't live without you, though." Which may sound simplistic, until you listen to it and really think about what it will mean to let go of your dying parent or lover. Like lying in bed at age nine, trying to wrap your mind around the terrifying expanse of infinity or wondering whether there's another you on another planet somewhere, it's best to just shoo these thoughts away.

But what's commendable here is that Fink doesn't shoo them away—she embraces them. She gives them voice, through the myriad of voices that make up the world we live in, even if they are at times hard to hear.
Invisible Ones

Invisible Ones

CD / MP3