Blasko’s third album takes the listener on an almost timeless journey to an alluring, yet mysterious destination. An artist never content with repetition, hers is a body of work that displays progression over tangents. Her vision becomes clearer with time, as comparisons fade. This is a singer and a sound beyond easy classification.
As the title suggests, “As Day Follows Night” is something of an awakening. It is the dawn that follows a night of hardship, the hope that follows heartbreak and the realisation of inner strength.
Freed from touring commitments, preparation for “As Day Follows Night” started around twelve months ago.
“I set up a kind of ‘office’, a space with just a piano, a guitar and some books and I tried to go in there every day. Not exactly 9 to 5, but as close as I could get to that.”
The increased focus not only saw Sarah shape the foundations of the next album but also embrace a very different challenge, composing the score for the Bell Shakespeare Company’s 2008 production of Hamlet. The melancholic tone of the play resonated with her as she worked simultaneously across both projects.
“It was good to have something alongside the album writing that had a deadline because it made me slightly more disciplined. It was sort of like exercise that kept my energy up for the task of writing the album,” she says. “When I did the performances for Hamlet over two months last year, in between the time I was on stage, I would sit at the backstage piano and write my album songs.”
The intricacies of old were stripped back and the results were organic, not synthesised; more direct and honest.
“Even though I didn’t really play piano, it’s my favourite instrument and I found its sound inspiring: the loneliness of it. It suited Hamlet and it suited my state of mind at the time. I knew from the start that I wanted all the instruments to have air in them. No effects pedals or synths. Lots of strings and piano. I didn’t want much guitar,” she explains.
The incubation lasted nine months after which Blasko set off overseas. By the end of the year, the fragments were in place. After her time in Sydney, Melbourne and a week spent writing in an apartment in Paris, Sarah was ready for the studio.
Having recording her two previous albums overseas, Sarah’s intention was to remain in Australia. However, while travelling in Scandinavia, she made a lasting connection with Swede, Björn Yttling (Peter, Björn & John) – who has shaped recordings as diverse as The (International) Noise Conspiracy, The Hives, Camera Obscura and Lykke Li.
“I felt that some of the things he’d worked on had old fashioned elements but with a freshness to them that seemed to embrace all kinds of music. This seemingly open-minded approach was what attracted me to working with Björn. Also, when I met with him he seemed extremely enthusiastic and direct.”
In Björn, Sarah found a producer to push her out of her comfort zone. Over a period of only ten days they worked at Atlantis and Decibel studios in Stockholm, with local Swedish players from a jazz pallet of strings, brass, piano, nylon guitar, banjo, double bass, percussion and drums.
“He took my vision and helped make it into a reality, but took it in directions I never imagined it could go – particularly rhythmically.”
“Some of the songs ended up sounding a lot more upbeat in the end. A quote from Leonard Cohen about blues singers seemed apt to me in preparing this record… something about how with blues singers you hear the heartbreak/the sadness but it’s uplifting; you don’t hear the whinge. This inspired me. The sadness somehow transports you.”
Another important aspect of these sessions was Björn’s approach to voice.
“It was great to have someone working on the record that felt that there didn’t need to be too many things around this and had confidence that the voice and the songs could carry so much of the mood and expression.”
In Björn, Blasko felt she had found an ally. Having written the songs in solitude, it was in the studio that Sarah wanted the collaboration to begin.
“He and I were very different, so now and then things could be tense, but essentially I felt that he understood where I was coming from and we found it exhilarating when things started coming together. There were a lot of moments when we both felt that what we were doing was something very special and it was quite an exciting experience. So many things seemed to come together quite effortlessly too.”
From the haunting sounds of ‘All I Want’ to the stomping tomes of ‘No Turning Back’, the fragility of ‘Is My Baby Yours?’ to the soulful ‘We Won’t Run’ Blasko brings beauty, heartbreak and hope alive with her phenomenal third album, “As Day Follows Night”.
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