Saddle Creek | Orenda Fink | Reviews


Ask The Night

Author: Sean Marchetto
11/09/2009 | | | Album Review
Orenda Fink is one of those prolific but low profile musicians that deserve cult followings much larger than they have. Ask The Night is Fink's, who maintains membership in a handful of bands on the Saddle Creek record label, including Azure Ray and Art in Manilla, follow-up to her hauntingly spiritual 2005 debut, Invisible Ones. Accompanied here by a country and gospel-style band, she channels these influences into 10 well-crafted songs created in homage to the lonely night.

The album opens with the mournful "Why Is The Night Sad," a kind of heartbroken letter written to a melancholy lover. The heroine misses him but recognizes that their love is filled with a tempestuous passion that breaks as much as it heals. "This house can't stand the storm/ And you know you're not safe here/ Through every crack in the floor/ Water pours," she sings, as if consigning him to yesterday. The song establishes Ask The Night as a solitary dark-of-night, fire-lit album, populated with characters who find themselves broken-hearted and alone, with loves gone missing or misplaced but pined for insatiably. "High Ground" features guitar embellishment and the guest vocals of Modest Mouse frontman Isaac Brock, functioning here as an emotional safety valve, a fitting counterpoint to Fink's own restrained melodic delivery as she describes her heroine's desire for a reunion with her man as akin to a prairie rainstorm a longtime coming. "Sisters" is the album's happy-go-lucky moment, bouncing along in the country air as Fink describes the love of two sisters, between whom comes "A man that didn't belong." The song's lightness belies the action taken by one sister to ensure "Now that he's gone/ We're back to laughing all night long," concluding with the ominous "We're no longer two against the world/ But at least we're on the same side."

Fink plumbs even deeper waters with "That Certain Something Spring," a nostalgic elegy for "A return to that certain something spring/ What decisions would you unmake then/ Stop and ask the night/ What it stole from you." This loneliness puts the album's characters in line with those from more traditional folk songs, like "The Long Black Veil," and one would not be surprised to find these characters wandering the same prairie nights. "The Garden" offers listeners a brief departure from the somber tone established by Fink, as she attempts to reassure us that "What you sow in your garden/ Keeps growing on earth and in heaven/ For eternity;" it's a quiet moment of encouragement, assuaging us that we can endure all this longing. While "Alabama" reflects wistfully on her home state, ultimately, Ask The Night is most comfortable with transient and solitary songs like "Wind" or "The Mural", where she is capable of grounding her themes of misplacement, sadness and ultimately love, into a setting where these feelings of loneliness are proven false by the connections we have made to the people and places around us.
Ask The Night

Ask The Night

LP / CD / MP3