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Julianna Barwick – Rising to the dawn, reaching to the sky

Shawn Brackbill

Ambient music is a broad and often misleading category of music, but throughout all ambient music there is a sense of spacious and expansive musical landscapes.   Julianna Barwick’s music is soaring, captivating and sparse, evocative of snowy, windblown places.

And so it is no surprise to learn that her latest album, Nepenthe, was recorded at Sundlaugin in Iceland.   Far from her Brooklyn home, on this outing Julianna Barwick works with Alex Somers (musical collaborator and domestic partner of Jónsi), Róbert Sturla Reynisson of múm, Sundlaugin's sound engineer Birgir Jón "Biggi" Birgisson (engineer and editor for Sigur Rós), as well as the string quartet Amiina.  

Nepenthe is more expansive that Barwick’s previous three albums.   There is a sense of grief, mourning, and loss throughout (her grandmother recently passed).  Wispy musical loops are folded over layers of often wordless vocals.   Barwick has a sound like no other, but comparisons to Enya, Lisa Gerrard, and the Cocteau Twins are inevitable.   

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