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on 19 August 2013
Those that somehow missed Julianna Barwick`s wonderful The Magic Place in 2011 are very likely to cause a stampede rushing to dish out superlatives for its follow-up Nepenthe - an album worthy of high praise, but one that is just a little too reliant on Barwick's vocal wow factor, something which will no doubt enrapture afresh many a newcomer all the same.

Nepenthe (a potion designed to induce selective amnesia) nevertheless arrives shrouded by a death in Barwick's family and her choice of titles this time around - both tracks and album - clearly show her raw sorrow, existential self-questioning and sense of outright loss. Nepenthe then is a collection of necessarily reflective songs with sombre pacing, Barwick shifting her focus from ambient ethereality to neo-classical angelics in the process.

Personally invited to escape and record in Iceland by Sigur Rós colloborator Alex Somers and featuring string contributions from Amiina, as well as the full scope of a teenage choir, she and the frosty, elemental landscape immediately make for ideal bedfellows, Barwick frontloading the LP with her most emotional statements before disappearing into the more generally ambient and experimental.

That vocal of hers - looped and layered beyond recognition and lost somewhere between choral cooing and reverbed instrumentation - is given a workout straight from the off, her backing choir windblown from some crystalline ice-floe situated between dream and sleep, reverence and transcendence swelling to fill the ears and heart to their capacity. "The Harbinger" then adds minimal piano and Amiina's strings to the supremely beautiful mix, while "Pyrrhic" wallows in extremely tearful cello until Jónsi no less guests in a passage of harmonies to balance the strings and vocal parts.

Barwick saves her most discernible vocal to date for "One Half", helping to anchor the album in very human terms when all else is so intangible. Too much of this and she might risk compromising her magic, but in moderation it works wonders and that is the key to Barwick's success. Though seemingly celestial music of the spheres, it's such subtleties that set her and the serene atmospherics of contemporaries like Liz Harris of Grouper apart. If heaven were discerning enough to have either piped through every cloud then it its goody-goody aesthetic would be all that more appealing.

Advised downloads: "The Harbinger" and "Pyrrhic".
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on 21 August 2013
This is a very special album.
For those not familiar with Juliana Barwick's work, she sings very softly and beautifully, layering her voice multiple times in harmony to create a choral effect. The image of a choir of angels springs to mind. Here she is accompanied by some minimal and tasteful instrumental backing. Don't get me wrong, though, this is not cheesy New Age music, with tinkling bells and cheap sounding synths. Far from it.
There are no lyrics in these songs, just her vocal tones creating the melodies and harmonies. Each track flows easily into the next with nothing to disturb the mood, allowing you to bathe deeply in the sweet purity of the vibes. The Wire magazine criticised the album for being too one-note and sentimental in mood, bemoaning the lack of 'edge' to mix things up, but I disagree strongly. Imho the inclusion of darker or edgier tracks would have spoilt the gentle overall atmosphere of the album.
Reminds me a bit of Riceboy Sleeps in its more celestial moments. And that's a good thing.
Transcendent musical purity from a very talented young artist who deserves your support. Don't hesitate - buy it!
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on 12 September 2013
Julianna Barwick's music is rather unique. It is interesting enough to warrant really deep listening but also very capable of creating a nice ambient atmosphere. Fans of Eno's ambient work will probably appreciate it because of this. Comparisons to Eno are perhaps a little misleading though; Eno's Ambient series often feels very calculated (note this is no criticism, I love his work) whilst Nepenthe maintains an entirely more organic and 'flowing' feeling throughout. Julianna's voice is a great instrument and I find it very relaxing.

The vinyl record sleeve is beautiful. The ink is more vibrant than many of the images seen online - it really is a striking pink. The inner sleeve is printed with imagery of the sea which is quite nice. Unfortunately mine came with a small crease on the cardboard but that is just the sacrifice you make for having vinyl records delivered to your door. I should also mention that the vinyl album comes with a code which allows you to redeem a free download of the album in 320 bitrate MP3s! Just note that it states that the 'offer may expire at any time, so don't wait.' I doubt this will be a problem, but the website may go down in 10 years time or something.
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on 2 September 2013
If you liked her last full length album (In a magic place) you will also like this very much. I disagree with the review in The Wire music mag.
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on 6 March 2016
This is the first time i have listened to anything by Julianna Barwick,but i am so glad i did.This is a lush,beautiful album full of relaxing,ambient type tracks,that are quite different to other things i have heard.Ideal to relax to,or similar to other albums,to just leave on in the background.Brilliant and absorbing.
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on 1 April 2016
Fantastic LP, recently discovered Julianna and was blown away...Play on endless repeat.....
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on 18 February 2014
An improvement in production to her debut the Magic Place
With no pretensions Miss Barwick does what she does like no other
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