Achingly beautiful melodies as a cure for the restless blues
Orenda 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.