Julianna Barwick: The Magic Place Review
NYC singer Julianna Barwick is a master of vocal layering, a technique in which she builds complex, ethereal tunes by interweaving recorded loops of her own voice. The resulting symphony of vocals is otherworldly and transcendental, containing both the beauty and purity of spirit of a children’s choir as well as the abstract structural designs of forward thinking composers like Sigur Ros (or Glass or Eno before them). Call it sublime, angelic, majestic – whatever adjective you find most poignant, chances are it somehow implies Barwick’s ability to create music that seems divinely inspired.
After teasing us with the short quaff of ambrosia that was last year’s Florine EP, Barwick will release full length debut The Magic Place this Winter. And while Magic only contains three more tracks than Florine, each one averages nearly five minutes long. And in the space of such lengthy tracks Barwick deftly navigates the heavenly heights without the aid of musical instruments other than her voice (and in few instances spare piano and guitar). As a whole, The Magic Place is as fully resplendent as its predecessor. And in parts, surprisingly, the songs stand up on their own as well. Where Barwick’s self imposed limitations could have have easily resulted in a monotonous listen, the nine tracks of The Magic Place contain enough uniqueness to keep them distinct.
Bar wick displays repetitive cadences of low/high vocals that sound somewhat African inspired in tracks like ‘Envelop,” and titular “Magic Place.” Other tracks are harder to place, with piano and guitar accompanied “Bob in Your Gait” taking on a dream-pop lilt or “Keep Up The Good Work,” and “Cloak,” which both convey a Northern European sense of cold sobriety. And “White Flag” seems a bit like all of the above – it’s an ebullient orchestration packed to the brim with rich vocal strands of all colors and stripes. Bar wick touches on minimalism as well as its opposite, often in the space of a single tune, and throughout her simply astonishing vocal range never betrays her aspirations.
Quite frankly, next to The Magic Place’s soul-wrenching melodies and the implicit talent behind their orchestration, most other music simply seems trite and unambitious. Though the critics have yet to weigh in on The Magic Place’s technical dissection, this listener for one has already been willingly swept of his feet.
— Jon Behm
You can catch Julianna Barwick performing TONIGHT (2/3) at Minneapolis’s Southern Theater
The Magic Place will be available on 2/22 via Asthmatic Kitty
Julianna Barwick: Site