Julianna Barwick: Will (Dead Oceans) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Sunday, December 3rd, 2023  

Julianna Barwick


Dead Oceans

May 02, 2016 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Julianna Barwick has occupied a unique space in music since her breakthrough, 2011’s The Magic Place. She makes music that isn’t quite electronic, because it’s too organic; isn’t quite instrumental, since it features voice; and isn’t quite ambient, since her music isn’t all drones and tones. Barwick’s music is unmistakably herswhile she started as “the singer who loops her voice over and over,” she’s expanded on that palette to stunning results. Her 2013 effort for Dead Oceans, Nepenthe, added more orchestral build-upperhaps thanks to the album’s producer, Sigur Rós collaborator Alex Somerswithout leaving behind the hypnotic quality of Barwick’s looping, churning vocal turns.

Her new album, Will, finds new inspirations creeping into her music, but remains distinctly full of sounds only she could create. Will features less epic instrumentation or overt post-rock buildup than Nepenthe, but it remains remarkably affecting and emotional. This time around, Barwick finds more influence in synthesized soundscapes, embracing more of the ambient undertones of her work than ever before. This is obvious on “Same,” which features M83-like synth lines, behind Barwick’s softly echoing vocals (as usual, her lyrics are either non-existent or unintelligible). “Nebula” sounds like a film score with its repeated, bubbling backdrop, sounds reminiscent of composer Jóhann Jóhannsson. Similarly, “Big Hollow” is a slow, ambient drone, punctuated by moments of beautifully muted piano. Barwick has spoken about learning her singing style by growing up singing church a cappella music, and on Will, that feeling of the deeper, mystic power of the human voice is on full display.

Much of Will is remarkably quiet and peaceful, but the final track, “See, Know,” has a big synth line and drums that are actually kind of noisyafter the sleepiness of the previous tracks, it’s a little jarring, but not unwelcome. The repetition has the same effect as a drone in previous songs, providing a peacefully repetitive canvas for Barwick to work with.

With Will, Barwick has once again created something only she could. It’s a remarkable achievement—in whatever genre she decides to embrace. (www.juliannabarwick.com)

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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