Julianna Barwick's Asthmatic Kitty Records debut, The Magic Place, is a nine-piece full-length album of magic and solace, bursting joy and healing tones. Julianna's mostly-a-capella music is built from her voice multi-tracked through a loop station. There's more backing instrumentation on this one than on previous albums but it's the vocals—soaring high in reverb-drenched, wordless harmonies—that matter most here. It's the layered fragments and pieces that become an intricate pattern through technology; it's the sound of a rising thing, a big group harmony as a splash of sunlight through a car window, a sound that feels like hope and ascendance and patience and intimacy.
Her inspiration here is the a capella church hymns she grew up singing; the way a roomful of diverse voices can join together to fill up a space. Says Julianna about her church singin' days, “You could really hear all the layers, harmonies, rounds, the men and the women, the claps... everything. Some of those hymns are so beautiful.”
Like Sigur Rós's ethereal glossolalia, there's a very particular joy in listening to Julianna's music. Free of the constraints of narrative and traceable language, it's the same joy in giving yourself over to opera in a foreign language, of letting go of your pesky rational mind and allowing the feeling to come through in the voices and performance. The title track is next, a reverb-y beauty queen that soars to Promethean heights and builds its own kind of safe haven in the clouds. Even the gaps between songs are essential to the album's listening experience—a sigh between stories or silence-as-drone, each second important. The New York Times called the pauses between Julianna's songs, “the small pleasure of a chance to breathe between the greater pleasures of not wanting to have to.” Meet The Magic Place. It's a great place to be...
released 22 February 2011
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