Sarah Blasko : I Awake
Sarah Blasko has one of those incredible voices that surprises you every time you hear it, even if it’s already familiar to you. I last saw her singing in a church with Holly Throsby and Sally Seltmann where, understandably, she had been given the lion’s share of leading vocals. There was a lightness to Seeker Lover Keeper that was evident on stage even in between the songs, with lighthearted asides adding to the fun of the swapping of compositions, vocals and instruments.
I Awake is the first work from one of the three singers from Seeker Lover Keeper since their album’s release, and Blasko’s fourth solo album has a completely different feel to that collaboration. It was written early last year from a solitary cottage in Brighton, England, and the result is an insular, soul-searching piece that gets its balance from Blasko’s gorgeous vocal guiding us through the trials and tribulations, as well as a sympathetic symphonic instrumentation.
Despite the album’s darker shade, the album’s opening and title track has a rousing, assured kick to it, forging a direct path of fierce independence in the face of all the odds. Pounding toms and jabbing horns add to the urgency, pushing the hunter and gatherer as she repeatedly insists “I’m going out”. Toward the end of the song, a surge of strings gives her one last heave into the great unknown.
The strings, courtesy of the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and arranged by Nicholas Wales, are in it for the long haul. They’re an integral part of the whole album’s sound, so it’s a bonus that Blasko is retaining the orchestral backing for the album’s upcoming promotional tour. They add a grandeur and simmering drama to a collection that otherwise retains the minimal, spacious production that Lasse Mårtén also applied to Blasko’s previous album, As Day Follow’s Night.
I Awake isn’t a huge departure from Blasko’s equally enchanting effort from 2009, though it clearly plunges us back into the night. Death is a constant shadow in the sidelines, but by the album’s death-defying closer, Not Yet, an impenetrable shield is put up against the grim reaper. Blasko describes the recording of this album as a ‘behemoth’, though its weightiness doesn’t make it a difficult or laboured listen. It’s a digging up of old and new fears, but it’s also a determined facing up to these fears, and Blasko comes out of the dark void stronger than ever.
BY CHRIS GIRDLER
Best track: God-Fearing
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In A Word: Reawakening