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julianna barwick - The Magic Place
Julianna Barwick's 2009 record 'Florine' launched her into an unprecedented cacophony of applause. The Brooklyn-via-Louisiana artist's understated vocal drones may not seem like an obvious frontrunner for indie success, but with Pitchfork singing the record's praises the groundswell of support was unmistakably positive. 'The Magic Place' cements this legacy, and now signed to Asthmatic Kitty, she seems perfectly poised to take her sound even further into the wide world of leftfield pop. I say pop because the songs on here are indeed songs in the classic sense, but like Grouper before her she has taken only the key elements of the songs, shrouding them in reverb and shredding them down to the bare bones of what is needed. Indeed Grouper might be the most obvious and most fitting modern comparison (especially early work such as 'Way Their Crept') but Barwick's affecting, hymnal style is maybe even closer to the work of Cocteau Twins chanteuse Liz Fraser. There is a distinct beauty to her tones, and the cavernous reverb and wordless songs bear more than a passing resemblance to the Cocteau Twins' more esoteric moments. These are songs for an age that seem to have passed, and as tragedy and heartbreak surrounds us, to return to something so blissfully simple, so pure and so unmistakably gorgeous is rare pleasure. In that, we have a selection of songs to soak up some of the modern disillusionment, and who wouldn't need that? Essential.