After returning to New York from her native Australia in the spring of 2021, Sparke finished writing all 14 songs for the album and decamped upstate with producer Aaron Dessner.
“I just had a really strong intuitive feeling that I would be doing this album with Aaron. We had met once years before at Eau Claire, so I asked my manager to contact him. When we first spoke Once we talked about co-writing from scratch, I had a big folder of demos but I was nervous about sharing them, but after hearing them he said, “There’s already so many things to work with here,'” Sparke recalled of how Dessner, who also contributes instrumentation with longtime multi-instrumentalist and collaborator Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Matt Barrick (The Walkmen, Muzz), got involved in bringing Hysteria to life.
“Aaron is such an amazing person, feeling his generosity and feeling him in my corner is a real gift. It definitely took me a while to get used to a different way of working and giving him my trust and my heart and his vision, but it also felt so natural and we became close friends in the process.”
The connection was intuitive for Sparke and Dessner who recall “I started hearing ideas listening to her voice almost immediately. We connected over the phone and had a long conversation. She was incredibly open and gracious and it was really a source of creative inspiration from the moment we started It always feels like a weird miracle when songs emerge that you want to listen to all the time – and that was certainly the case with his record It feels cohesive and timeless and inspired me in a way that I know I will I keep coming back I think the chemistry is good.
Centering Sparke’s powerful vocals throughout, Hysteria is packed with big guitars and layered instrumentation that practically act like the album’s lungs, giving every note breath. If Echo bore the mark of producer Adrianne Lenker’s intimate spectral approach, then Hysteria is relatively full-bodied and warm like a raging fire, as Dessner’s ornate instrumentation complements Sparke’s writing perfectly. The result is music that sounds timeless.
On Hysteria, Sparke examines love, loss, grief, a newly realized rage, her story, her dreams and the emotional weather surrounding these feelings: her words tell the stories and the sounds set them in motion. It’s a diary built for the big stages. Hysteria arrives just a year after her critically acclaimed minimalist debut, Echo. Here however, Sparke offers a vast body of work – it is a nostalgic yet clear and complex collection that expands his sound and vision.
Work on Hysteria began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when Sparke was stuck in quarantine in Australia awaiting renewal of her visa so she could return to the United States. His first Echo was in the works for release, but Sparke was already experiencing a stream of creative thought following changes in his own life.
“I was going through an intense separation and processing it all in the deep flow of the world collapsing,” she recalls.
“I was going through huge waves of grief and trying to come to terms with what was going on, inside and out. The grief opened a door to the past that I thought I had made peace with. But it There were days when I just couldn’t get myself off the floor. I felt like everything was falling through this hole in my chest. It was hard and nauseating to feel such immense groundlessness. while looking at all the different versions of myself that I had been in. All the different chapters that I had been through, of heavy drug use, sexual abuse, love in all its forms, complex trauma and mental health, time spent living in India and Bali searching for something deeper to make sense of it all, it was almost as if my life was flashing before my eyes, I realized that I was in a deeply altered state, because everything stopped simultaneously around me, but flashed violently inside outside of me.”
For Sparke, Hysteria reflects the growth it has seen in recent years, to the point where, in his words, it presents almost an entirely different artistic perspective.
“I feel like I’ve matured a lot in this time of expression,” she explains. “When you’re alone in the dark, you see yourself more clearly. I’ve realized a lot of my borderline behaviors and life habits. The edge of hope, grief, joy, etc. J I was at the axis point inside love right on the edge of a place that had been a house of hysteria for me in the past Ever since that reckoning I’ve been determined to find a feeling of surrender in the chaos. Unwavering trust and faith. And a willingness to stay kind and calm and patient with myself so that I can evolve into embodying grace more and more. It is the only way to survive for me now. So there’s a deeper acceptance of who I am and what made me, me. I think in the process of everything somewhere along the way, I’ve quietly become a woman and now I don’t feel as fragile as I once did, or now I accept the wild inner landscape of myself and my n story and that gives me a different strength to work from.”
While the world Sparke inhabits is a rich sonic tapestry that draws the listener into circular spaces of minimalistic textures and seemingly endless harmonic suspensions, what is most clearly on display is her voice and song forms.
Deceptively simple structures wind like labyrinths in a swirl of lyrical expression and vocal pageantry reminiscent of the early works of PJ Harvey, Meredith Monk, and more. These compositions are a warm invitation into his world.
Watch the new music video here: