Julianna Barwick
The Magic Place


4.0
excellent

Review

by robin EMERITUS
February 21st, 2011 | 39 replies | 9,518 views


Release Date: 2011 | Tracklist

Review Summary: why I love "White Flag"

The Magic Place does little to take back Julianna Barwick’s sound as it was on Sanguine and Florine- it’s still very much a story told by her voice- but here it sounds closer to us and in a way, more serious. It’s easy to see a criticism of The Magic Place will be that it seems out of Barwick’s control most of the time, or that she lets her choral work drone beyond its end, but really, it's the first of her records to lay down markers. That’s to do no disrespect to the beauty of Sanguine, a record that reflected the strengths in her (reverb-drenched) a’capella, but a record as endless as that became less about giving her ideas space and more about using all of them- “Scary Cat,” a freak out worthy of Animal Collective, came out of no where and took away what was so powerful about hearing this voice. This time around, however, Barwick’s music always hits. “White Flag,” the records centrepiece, not only feels like the highpoint of Barwick’s career in terms of composition and structure, but also benefits emotionally from it; the warm bass tones that shake around her voice add feeling through control. The song becomes bigger with these markers because Barwick is let loose better when her voice has something to react to, and it does- the layered vocals become thicker, more passionate, and this warmth fills your speakers.

That’s something that would’ve escaped her before, perhaps, but as The Magic Place moves onward, Barwick seems to know where her warmth comes from and never attempts to re-create it. Instead, she lets her voice feel and flow as it so wishes while her newfound ability to construct fills the edges around this ambience. The balance never tips one way or the other, with “Vow,” the instant fallout from “White Flag,” one example. The best of the album is here accepted in “White Flag,” and so her layered vocals continue to act as a focus, descending from the record’s peak with sprinkled piano notes and the continued comfort of that thick bass. And perhaps that’s what’s so recognisable about The Magic Place, that by making “White Flag” her focus, Barwick has found a professional side, one where a record is created to consciously engage with its listener, building in its heady emotion for its first four tracks and bowing out just as touchingly with its other half. “Vow,” “Bob in Your Gait” and “Prizewinning” all hold their own as pieces, with the latter even exploding before the record’s end, but they share pattern that recognises the gorgeous record Barwick is trying to make around “White Flag,” her cornerstone. The rise and fall of The Magic Place feels patient and planned.

Still, it feels a little silly to say all this of The Magic Place when it’s really a record about a voice. It’s Barwick’s most evocative instrument, one that sparkly piano notes can only help fill the room for, and one with which she diminishes too many comparisons to Panda Bear and other leftfield pop musicians. The voice she’s spoken of as being at one with “church music” carries the record, resonating in each layer she adds; at times she’ll puncture with it (“Keep Up The Good Work”) and at others she’ll use it as something anthemic, recognising the beauty her chorus makes in (to say yet more of the record’s masterpiece) “White Flag.” On the record’s final track, “Flown,” she returns to the basics, letting her voice alone carry The Magic Place to its end. And that about sums up what this record does best: it allows us to celebrate Barwick’s voice from all corners, using its structure and professionalism to keep her greatest instrument doing what it does best. At its loudest and quietest, The Magic Place uses Barwick’s voice as the great emotional vehicle it is.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 21st 2011



14884 Comments


swag

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
February 21st 2011



14884 Comments


mmm lovely album. reading brave new world for school and listening to this and it's working quite well

AggravatedYeti
February 21st 2011



7684 Comments


okokok Ill check it out.

BigTuna
February 21st 2011



5151 Comments


GROUPER

Digging: EMA - The Future's Void

jeremologyy
February 21st 2011



259 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

it is very much like a more churchly grouper. but i like grouper's work more.

Eskate87
February 21st 2011



959 Comments


like Grouper? Im on it.

robin
Emeritus
February 21st 2011



4221 Comments


oh, and i guess it's like grouper.

kanecooper
February 21st 2011



630 Comments


hey robin did anyone ever tell you

Irving
Staff Reviewer
February 22nd 2011



7011 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

I got this album for free from Asthmatic Kitty because they messed up one of my orders; at first I thought it was just a cheap promo because the CD came without any booklet beyond the forest-themed covering. But this review made it sound like a potentially really interesting undertaking; great write-up.

And don't judge a book by its cover, Irving.

robin
Emeritus
February 23rd 2011



4221 Comments


the cover is the coolest

AggravatedYeti
February 23rd 2011



7684 Comments


just realized the 'Florine EP' I was bumping constantly in 09 was this woman. holycrap I'm on this.

captaincrunch11
February 23rd 2011



1193 Comments


So incredibly good

robin
Emeritus
February 24th 2011



4221 Comments


dylan yes =)

Irving
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2011



7011 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Finally tried it. Album is like listening to fairies in the wood. Great stuff.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
February 24th 2011



15693 Comments


on it

first song reminds me of justin bieber 800x slower and Braids. 5/5

Digging: Nmesh - Dream Sequins [AMDISCS]

conradtao
Emeritus
February 24th 2011



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

WHY have I still not heard this, I must get on this asap

robin
Emeritus
February 24th 2011



4221 Comments


i really love that white flag song

thebhoy
Emeritus
February 26th 2011



4459 Comments


This is just not very interesting. Sorry birdman : (

conradtao
Emeritus
March 2nd 2011



2088 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This is a stunning record.

robin
Emeritus
March 6th 2011



4221 Comments


kee where is my "all i really need is stars of the lid" rebuttal?



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