It’s hard to avoid using the E word when talking about Julianna Barwick. Her combination of ethereal, hypnotic vocals with carefully constructed layers of meticulously crafted sound conjures up inevitable if unfortunate visions of Enya.
A more useful comparison might be with Liz Fraser, and the sort of music that she and her fellow 4AD sirens were producing with the likes of the Cocteau Twins, This Mortal Coil and Dead Can Dance. But there’s none of that angst with Barwick.
The waves of balm that she wraps you up in evoke instead the blissed-up chill-out calm of last year’s Within And Without from Washed Out, reviewed here earlier, with the occasional echo of the quieter bits form Panda Bear’s Tomboy.
The Magic Place is all of the above, and yet somehow so much more. For despite all that bliss, and calm, and chilled out, yawn, serenity, it’s an album that manages to avoid ever sounding in any way monotonous.
Which is remarkable. There are no lyrics to speak of, in the conventional sense. It’s essentially a Minimalist album, where each piece takes a motif which is then worked on, methodically, almost mathematically, up to varying degrees of complication. And yet, there’s enough variation throughout and across each of the nine tracks to draw you in and hold you there. And rather than ever becoming boring, the more you listen to it the more beguiling become its charms.
Officially, it’s her second album, but to all extents and purposes The Magic Place is her first album proper and has been out for a year now. It got an impressed 8.5 from the boys from Pravda http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/15147-the-magic-place/?utm_campaign=search&utm_medium=site&utm_source=search-ac. If you missed it first time around, treat yourself.