Julianna Barwick
Will


3.7
great

Review

by Atari STAFF
May 8th, 2016 | 44 replies


Release Date: 2016 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Vague beauty

In the midst of life’s agitations, it’s refreshing to escape from distinct melodies and structured choruses into a release that’s shrouded in a delightfully hazy fog. Will is one of those albums where the songs bleed together, morphing into what feels like a vaguely cohesive whole rather than a set of individual tracks. Solo ambient artist, Julianna Barwick, is certainly no stranger to dream-like soundscapes, and her latest is both fuzzy and gorgeous in equal doses. Her haunting vocals cut through the cloudy layers, as tranquil piano passages and strings provide the songs with room to breathe.

Among the gloomy, recurrent chants unleashed by Barwick on the ominous ‘Nebula,’ one gets the sense they’re trapped in the depths of a strange dream, unable to escape the artist’s eerie and vast echo. The repetitive cycle of her voice remains brooding throughout the track, effectively reeling the listener into in her compelling aura. As she takes control of her cavernous surroundings on Will, she’s accompanied by electronic flourishes that thrive on their subtlety around her. Sometimes her mysterious cries are answered with dense synths, whereas cellos and gentle classical influences sneak their way into the background on the more somber cuts. If ‘Nebula’ is the album’s anxious dream, then follow-up ‘Beached’ is the equivalent of waking up with a sense of incredible peace flowing through your veins. With tender piano-work and deeply poignant strings, Barwick shifts the mood of the album into a more comfortable setting that blossoms with an unmistakable sense of serenity. This feeling translates into ‘Same’, which feels like the sound of complete acceptance as warm orchestration floats effortlessly among the optimistic, yet indistinct vocals.

Although Barwick employs various moods on Will ranging from dreary to incredibly peaceful, the songs seem to flourish on a sense of connection. Even the most downright gorgeous numbers share similar traits with the more intrusive moments. Every track contains some sense of repetition, but Barwick carefully expands upon the familiar building blocks to suit whatever mood she wants to convey. While this method often makes for an enticing and dreamy atmosphere, there are times she stretches her minimalistic approach too far into the realm of redundancy. Closer ‘See, Know’ has a sense of bursting energy, but is too tied down with its strict electronic movements to ever escape from its own limitations. Where Barwick’s music truly shines, then, is when she tears down her restrictive barriers. ‘Heading Home’ has much more room to work with, as it gracefully builds upon quiet piano melodies into a more expansive setting complete with heart-wrenching strings and the gripping echo of Barwick’s voice. Even when she’s relieved of her constraints, her music still has a murky quality to it – never feeling attached to a particular quality or foundation.

As bewildering as Will can be, the overall lack of structure leaves a large part of the experience up to the imagination. The gorgeous but wandering vocals seem to echo from the confines of a deep cave, always floating in the air with a sense of intrigue. Though it takes a sense of patience to pass through the thick layers, Julianna Barwick’s latest musical exploration is not without its rewards. She makes you work for the payout, but trapped behind the album’s dark facades are instances of indescribable beauty. At times, it’s so intoxicating that you’re momentarily yanked out of reality into an extension of Barwick’s ethereal world. After all, isn’t that what ambient music is all about -- losing yourself"



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 8th 2016


24616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

some gorgeous stuff on here, I especially like beached, same, and heading home. highly recommended for fans of Grouper



album stream

http://www.npr.org/2016/04/28/475917617/first-listen-julianna-barwick-will

Digging: Radiator Hospital - Sings "Music for Daydreaming"

brandontaylor
May 8th 2016


806 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

good review. really enjoying this album and its probably gonna end up a 4 or higher. the closer is absolutely gorgeous

JamieTwort
May 8th 2016


26988 Comments


Ooh gotta check this.

Will read the review later.

StrangerofSorts
Staff Reviewer
May 8th 2016


2905 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album! Never gave me that ugh (in a good way) feeling though, but I'll live.



A friend of mine interviewed her last week and apparently she's every bit as lovely as you'd expect.



Enjoyed the review (:

robin
Emeritus
May 8th 2016


4569 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

this one didnt come through for me like sanguine/mplace/nepenthe : (

Sinternet
May 8th 2016


19391 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

ooh didn't know she had a new one

Digging: Peggy Gou - Moment

p4p
May 8th 2016


1959 Comments


not as good as nepenthe on a 1st listen but its pretty bangin

JS19
May 8th 2016


7112 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Step down but still yum

Digging: Tim Hecker - Anoyo

zaruyache
May 8th 2016


20856 Comments


ooh didn't know she had a new one [2] !

Digging: Neckbeard Deathcamp - SO MUCH FOR THE TOLERANT LEFT

kylemccluskey
May 9th 2016


177 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

didn't care for this nearly as much as her last, nepenthe--her magnum opus. the strings of that album supported her voice much better, creating some strikingly serene moments. this album's predominant use of electronics was jarring by contrast. other than that, it's hard to pinpoint exactly where she went amiss here, but generally the sonic palette is less rich and the builds aren't as impactful.



if you at all dug this record, definitely give nepenthe a listen. that album is an aural heaven; on the right day it can nearly bring me to tears. whereas this one, by comparison, was just decent.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


24616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

yeah, I agree that some parts on this album are slightly jarring, but I feel like that makes the more serene moments that much more impactful. 'Beached' is just stunningly beautiful, especially following the more anxious sounding 'Nebula'. I do need to revisit nepenthe again tho to see where it stands for me.



also, cheers everyone

kylemccluskey
May 9th 2016


177 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

well written review though, I generally agree with your take on it. it just didn't hit as hard for me in the wake of her last.

PappyMason
May 9th 2016


5702 Comments


Need to hear this, last week was great for releases.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 9th 2016


24616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

thx kylemccluskey, yeah I feel you.



I wasn't too impressed with this on my first listen, but it proved to be a grower for me. I did just listen to nepenthe, and I agree that the strings on that album are quite striking. hard to say which one I like better at this point, they're quite different

hal1ax
May 9th 2016


13620 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

This is dece. In some ways, I like it more than nepenthe.

Taxt
May 10th 2016


1296 Comments


Ooooh, gotta check this.

larrytheslug
May 10th 2016


1587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Do people generally like her last album more than this? This is my first time listening to JB, but this is absolutely stunning!

RadicalEd
May 11th 2016


9546 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

great review. liked her last lp. streaming this right now



Edit: "Same" brings the goosebumps. Impressed so far.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 11th 2016


24616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

cheers. yeah, 'same' is definitely one of my favorites on here

Pangea
May 14th 2016


3032 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

pretty good

Digging: The National - I Am Easy to Find



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