#377 Julianna Barwick – Prizewinning

My occassional fliratatons with new age music, if you could even call it such, brought me through musicians who today aren’t quite known for that genre even if lasting streams of those influences clearly remain in their subsequent work. And I never quite enjoyed it. Sarah McLachlan’s debut album Touch (1988) surely looked the part with the ornately (and of course slightly eerily) decorated sepia toned cover art. I found myself liking her subsequent albums more, probably owing to their stronger rock and pop leanings, and soon gave away my copy of the album to a friend who appreciated it much more. Another point of contact was probably Brian Eno’s Ambient 1: Music for Airports (1978), which I never got into as much as I know I should have, preferring instead his weightier Discreet Music (1975).

It was thus with some trepidation that I approached Julianna Barwick’s The Magic Place, released earlier this year on Asthmatic Kitty, a label not impartial to spiritual(ised) music. The album had all the ethereal and flighty aspects of music that I’ve remained rather guarded about (where is it all headed?), but yet it contained such a strong authorial presence that drew me in, even without a discernable lyrical narrative. The difference for Barwick is that focusing on the experiential has not hindered her from producing works of great force and direction, with tracks like “Prizewinning” challenging the “nothing ever happens” stereotype of new age music by first subjecting her own glowing vocals to the discipline of a rigid looping bassline and later setting it free with the gloriously triumphant call of a marching band. – Dan.

mp3: Julianna Barwick – Prizewinning

The Magic Place is available on Asthmatic Kitty.


3 responses to “#377 Julianna Barwick – Prizewinning

  1. Ravel’s Bolero might have been the most important piece of music to usher the slow build and repetitive motif without melodic variation into Western popular culture. The mere dynamism of rise and fall in music in itself seems to still challenge most of the population, but has become a key aspect of music production. It seems that people want something unique in their pop music, they want new and exciting textures to be added into a song, but have no desire to enjoy those textures of music for themselves. It’s good to get lost in these explorations every now and then. Nice pick.

  2. For Eno’s ambient records, I’d even plump for On Land and Apollo over Music for Airports and Discreet Music. The latter two are good, but the former two for me are landmarks, focusing on textures much more and prefigure Fennesz and Oneohtrix.

  3. nice song ! it’s unique pop !

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