Julianna Barwick: Nepenthe (Dead Oceans) album review | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
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Julianna Barwick

Nepenthe

Dead Oceans

Aug 26, 2013 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


Julianna Barwick's breakthrough record The Magic Place saw the Brooklyn singer find her, ahem, voice, as a creator of ambient, ethereal choral workslayering vocals to the extent that they become lost in the ether, finding an otherworldliness fit for religious ceremony.

At its core, Nepenthe marks no great departure from this formula, but there are some pronounced differences. Accepting an invitation from Alex Somers (musician/producer for Sigur Rós and Jonsí) to record the follow-up to her debut in Iceland, Nepenthe expands Barwick's sonic palette considerably. Somewhat thankfully, this means some variety where her music has previously consisted solely of vocals. The solemn piano chords on "The Harbinger" or the strings on "One Half" add a sense of enchantment that the songs would otherwise lack.

In creating emotive, ethereal music that ties in with the Scandinavian's country's stunning natural beauty, Iceland's credentials do not need to be reiterated. And unsurprisingly, Somers' apparent heavy involvement is evident throughoutany fan of Riceboy Sleeps, his 2009 record with boyfriend and Sigur Rós frontman Jonsí, will undoubtedly recognize some similarities straightaway. Droning bass lines, filtered vocals and sporadic instrumental embellishments all help lend Barwick's music a romantic, emotional vibrance.

Depending on your tastes, Nepenthe either marks Barwick's progression to a higher, more emotionally powerful and resonant place, or she's managed the musical equivalent of Instagramming her album. (www.juliannabarwick.com)

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 7/10



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