The familiar wispy vocals of ARIA-winning Australian singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko and Australian composer Nick Wales collide on Emergence, the captivating soundtrack to the Sydney Dance Company’s production of the same name. Having studied music under the guise of the late great Peter Sculthorpe and worked on the strings on Blasko’s previous album I Awake, Wales is the wondrous hell beneath Blasko’s Earth. The wavy, heavy synths on possessed opener Killer are thunderous and chilling, only lightened by Blasko’s ethereal, heavenly vocals. The track travels through a tunnel of fire with the slow-burning oomph of a James Bond theme, ultimately soaring above the intense inferno of Blasko’s ghoulish falsettos.
Belongil proves that F minor is one of the scariest keys on the musical scale. Its pulsating, breathing keyboards and off-kilter electronic drum hits provide a cleansing musical waterfall of metallic rain, before ghostly vocal humming suspends the song in space. The result is a frightening, demonic background to despair that would surely be gloriously horrifying to witness as a dance on stage.
The wackiness continues on Love The Weight, where Blasko sounds simultaneously angelic and akin to a bag of screaming cats. Amongst the barren, sexless musical arrangement is an intoxicating concoction of transcendent, disharmonious ‘ooohs’ and overdriven, machine-like lead vocals that is undeniably feminine. This piece is weightless yet heavy; Blasko sounds scarred yet scary.
A running theme throughout the album is the lack of lyrics, particularly on the unsettling, watery grave of a waltz that is Breathing In. Wales’ electronica gently meditates through undulating waves of sound such as slow string purrs. However, the opening and closing shallow breaths couldn’t sound more like the sensation of drowning as they cut out at the end like a clock that’s run out of time. Burning Moment exudes corruption, desolation and romance, as Blasko’s sampled vocals muttering phrases like ‘I was, I am, I will be’ scatter like jumbled computer code over laboured, warm strings.
Pain Is A Number is rather unhinged for a single, starting with its factory-made yet rhythmic beat conjuring the atmosphere of a torture chamber. Eventually, the slow-buildup gives way to over-the-top theatricality, as keyboard blips, high-pitched vocal runs and the orchestra flipping out of control. Texitorial sprints to the album’s finish line with claustrophobic, spinning synths that penetrate at all pitches, supported by Blasko’s eerie wordless performance that seems not to be humanly possible.
Blasko and Wales have combined their talents to create a deathly, confronting piece of work that may a bit inaccessible, yet is artful and fruitful for listeners to absorb with their ears and their eyes.