Mar 03, 2021
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By Mark Moody

They say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, and whether Australian songwriter Indigo Sparke is destined to a star-crossed fate or not, her own given name certainly invokes the mood for her Sacred Bones debut. Much like the image on the cover, Echo’s landscapes are stark, desolate, and hostile to those who wander through. At the album’s darkest, Starke doubles down on tracks like “Bad Dreams,” where ominous signs of “blood on my horizon” foretell of a soured relationship and are accompanied by a finger-picked swirl of psychedelic notes. While on the slow-to-unfold “Wolf,” Sparke plays supplicant to an unattainable lover. Though much publicized, Sparke’s time spent with Big Thief’s Adrienne Lenker no doubt colors the arrangements here. Not so much from Lenker’s hand in the recording, though she and Big Thief producer Andrew Sarlo are given credit, but more that Sparke’s tonal content and disposition err to the darker side. Lenker’s abysskiss is a good jumping off point, though Sparke’s fixation with death is of the more relational kind.  

That’s not to say that all of Echo makes for an oppressive listen. The opening “Colourblind,” where a fuller sound is present courtesy of most of Big Thief’s residual members, is paced by a tambourine clack and Sparke’s achingly spare vocals. The mournful tone of Beck’s Sea Change album comes to mind. Primarily though, Echo is left to Sparke’s solo turns with the slightest of accompaniment. This works especially well on “Carnival,” where her barely-there whisper wends its way through the song’s wells of resignation and hits emotive peaks along the way. And the closing “Everything Everything” taps into the desperation of staring “into the universe’s big black void,” as distant piano chords hover in the distance. Echo is a tangible realization of Sparke’s meditations on the fleeting nature of the most intense of relationships. Coloring the songs within the narrow range of pre-dawn shades only serves to heighten their intensity. (

Author rating: 7/10

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