Ask the Night
The more restless half of the dream-pop duo Azure Ray, Orenda Fink has bounded from project to project since that group’s schism in 2004. A bold solo debut in 2005, Invisible Ones, was colored by Haitian music and mysticism, but less memorable was a 2007 album by Fink’s short-lived, meat-and-potatoes indie-rock band, Art in Manilla. Worse yet was a flaccid album released earlier this year from yet another Fink project, O+S, a trip-hop group with Remy Zero bassist Cedric Lemoyne.
Mercifully, Fink wipes the slate clean on her second proper solo album, Ask the Night, a return to form, even though it’s unlike anything she’s recorded before. Less hushed than Azure Ray, but less overwrought than her post-Azure Ray projects, it’s a study in American folk, replete with slide guitar, sprightly mandolins and waltzing banjos that nicely complement Fink’s beguiling, maternal voice and lovely songs about her Southern heritage. It’s a polite project, and mostly a slight one—the only shot of adrenaline coming from Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock, who warns of disastrous flooding on “High Ground”—but the album plays to Fink’s strengths in a way the last few didn’t. After so much time spent skirting her comfort zone, this is a sweet homecoming.