It’s a remarkable fact to take stock of: Sarah Blasko has been in the music business for 8 years. With a nature as delicate as her porcelain skin, it is strange to think that Sarah is fast approaching doyen status in this fickle business. In fact, it seems like forever ago (and simultaneously only yesterday) that Sarah released her debut album in 2004, The Overture & the Underscore. The record was a subtle and restrained debut that belied Sarah Blasko’s immense potential and future place as one of Australia’s most adored and important musicians. Today marks the release of Sarah’s fourth album I Awake and while it is difficult to believe it’s been 8 whole years, the maturity and knowledge she has gained during this time couldn’t be more evident.
Rollicking drums open the new album as a husky voiced Sarah declares “I’m awake, I’m not scared”. Her voice, still that exquisite balance between fragile and powerful, betrays no hesitancy, no restraint. “I’ve tried to make this life my own” she then goes on to affirm on ‘I Awake’, the opener and title track, and it sets the mood well for this self-produced album that has arrived at a time in her career where she needed to make a statement. On your first album you have nothing to prove, on your second you have everything. Your third cements your place, your fourth defines your legacy.
Whether you agree with this rough timeline via album milestones or not, you cannot deny one thing: musicians must work to maintain credibility. To maintain their place they must stretch new boundaries, explore new creative avenues. With this record Sarah has achieved that. She’s reminded us all of her talent, and shown us a different side of her musical personality.
Recorded in Sweden and Bulgaria the album is a lush landscape of moods and sounds. It’s now common knowledge that she utilised the talents of the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra for the record, but what is surprising is how the orchestra is utilised. The record doesn’t sound orchestral per se in the way we’re accustomed to hearing on pop records, all crashing crescendos and grandiose strings, it’s more of a celebration of the ability of such a mass collective of instruments to create different moods. The Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra are very much the accompaniment to Sarah’s voice, which is always prominent as the guiding force throughout the diverse array of ambiences the album creates. It’s a delightful and evocative use of orchestration and a testament to her continued creative growth. Sarah Blasko, it would seem, is wide awake.