Sarah Belkner is keeping things local with her debut album But You Are, But It Has. The album boasts collaborations with Australian artists such as Elana Stone, NGAIIRE, Billie McCarthy and Brendan Maclean and was expertly produced by Belkner and her husband in their Camperdown studio.
Although Belkner is classically trained and a self-professed lover of indie pop, her style is far from conventional. Belkner accompanies her practiced piano with electronic beats and synthetic sounds to produce an experimental, eccentric musicality.
Belkner states she wanted to create an album of textural contradiction, a merging of “clear humble starkness and an epic fantastical feel at the same time”.
A complex mixture of subtle, layered arrangements carefully crafted into an indie pop dreamscape, Sarah Belkner retains her eccentricity on But You Are, But It Has.
Dualistic in her ethereal, narrative style and use of chorus, Belkner is commonly compared to Kate Bush. More Babooshka than Wuthering Heights, the album is a supple, billowing fusion of synthesised instrumentation, minimal percussion and sparkling piano. Her lovingly named ‘Banshee Chorus’ compliments Belkner’s assured voice and elates each track to a layered, sometimes climactic, finish.
The album is a heartfelt narrative, easily comparable and strikingly relatable. The captivating storyline paired with a deeply atmospheric deliverance creates an illusory soundscape, while remaining poignant and grounded in proper meaning.
Her choruses provide a sense of comradery not often found in solo albums. Lyrics are interwoven with subtleties and messages of hope, resignation and encouragement. Belkner has certainly achieved her goal when she stated that she wanted to create an album “that had it’s very own clear feeling you can get lost in”.
Belkner utilises her ‘Banshee Chorus’ to place hope amongst the chaos and confusion, the choir often reiterating or reassuring the narrative that Belkner sings. The album explores the often self-professed state of purgatory that we place ourselves in when we are challenged or conflicted, similar to the state of a Banshee, and how one can escape our minds and move on.
“There’s a lot of themes about acceptance in order to be able to move forward and also cause and effect”.
Belkner was inspired by a CASIO keyboard that she was gifted by her father when she was five, the preloaded sound loops stimuli for the subtle, repetitive basis underlying her confident voice.
Adventurous but refined, But You Are, But It Has revises 70s synth sounds to create a delightfully dignified orchestral record.
A digital loop layered with a steady, simple piano enthrals on the opener Time, introducing a duet to build a robust but playful track. The synth work is notable but not overshadowing, an easy-listening and reverberating hymn reminiscent of The National.
Cellophane shows a simpler yet more confident approach. Belkner sings softly, the chorus quietly comforting the wispy theme of feeling transparent. Instead of the song having a blatant meaning, Belkner advises listeners use her work “to learn about life and how to live”.
The heaviest track on the album, a definitive turning point in Belkner’s musical journey, is Busy Being Sad. Blaring from the get go, the hurried piano and dramatic percussion are complemented by Belkner’s more frenetic vocals.
Encapsulating the inward struggle to understand one’s own importance, the song is an emotive breakthrough from the hurt she explores beforehand.
The denouement of the album replaces liveliness for a more sombre mood, the otherworldly synths and reverberating sonics establishing the most experimental half of the record. George is worth a notable mention, its exploratory composition guaranteed to be compelling when performed live.
It’s a pleasure to see Belkner advance in confidence and arrangement. But You Are, But It Has is a more daring, expertly produced album that could only be enhanced by Belkner’s engaging and enthusiastic live deliverance.
Witness Belkner’s work in Sydney and Melbourne over the coming weeks at either of her album launches. Details below: