by Dave Bertram
Four years on from the release of Will – her last, critically acclaimed LP, Julianna Barwick returns with her new collection of reverb-drenched meditations, Healing Is A Miracle. As before, the record is built on improvisation and creates a haunting wall of sound, which spins multiple vocal layers, and where synths sound like they were recorded in cathedral rooms that mimic the size of small countries.
The colossal depth of the sonic landscape, created by a less-is-more approach to instrumentation, is a central to the work of a certain group from Iceland and it only takes a couple of bars of opener Inspirit, to recognise Jónsi’s fingerprints.
Alongside Nosaj Thing and Mary Lattimore, the go-to classically trained American harpist, Barwick has assembled a small group of collaborators to develop what is a rather powerful, yet short, eight-track LP. Her voice on Oh Memory is soft and high-pitched, unfolding layer after layer – words hidden in the reverb sequencing are delivered as sounds to create feeling, not to convey meaning.
In Light finds Barwick and Jónsi together, creating a cacophony of voice which feel like waves flowing over each other across a deep blue sea, before the heavier orchestration whips up the winds. Safe delivers the softest, perhaps sweetest flashes of My Bloody Valentine, while Flowers and Wishing Well call on the space and sparse euphoria of Grouper – the latter feels like U2’s Where the Streets Have No Name, slowed to a walking pace and layered with soft choral voices.
Ambient music can be ambitious and outward-looking, not just for those wandering in introspection. Healing is a Miracle is a magical record which provides a case in point, providing the listener with layers upon layers upon layers to peel back.
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