Words About Music
Julianna Barwick “Nepenthe”
When people think “church choir” they usually think something along the lines of gospel or blues or R&B, not experimental ambient music. But experimental ambient music—with a touch of folk—is exactly what Missouri-based musician Julianna Barwick does. She builds her soundscapes around multiple loops and layers of her own voice, as well as pianos and every now and then a percussive instrument. The resulting songs are lush and ethereal, and bring to mind some of the music that Sigur Rós is known for. “Nepenthe” is her second album, and it continues down this path of ambient music, which Barwick says is inspired by her church choir upbringing.
Ambient music is not a genre for everyone. Some people only listen to it to fall asleep, and others claim it’s too boring and uneventful to even qualify as music. I disagree with those people and think that what Julianna is doing is really interesting, and the resulting sounds come out sounding very lovely. While her first album “The Magic Place” was done in a bedroom recording approach, she certainly built on that concept with “Nepenthe,” which featured a string ensemble and a choir.
While I appreciate Julianna’s music for being quiet, calm, ethereal, and very pretty, it doesn’t really stick with me the way that the ambient music of someone like Aphex Twin or Tim Hecker does. I do enjoy “Nepenthe,” but I don’t love it. It’s not that I find the music boring or uneventful, it just doesn’t wow me like I feel it should, based on reviews of this album and “The Magic Place.”
If you’re looking for some good ambient music then I’d definitely recommend “Nepenthe,” because Julianna Barwick makes interesting and beautiful music in an interesting way. But for some reason or another, this album has not clicked with me, and I’m not entirely sure that it will. It does have me interested in Julianna and I’m sure I’ll listen to whatever album she comes out with next, but I can only hope that her third album is even better and more expansive and grand than the first two.
SCORE – 7.3
FAVORITE TRACKS – The Harbinger, Pyrrhic, Labyrinthine, Adventurer of the Family, Crystal Lake