Julianna Barwick has returned with the single ‘One Half’. Off the forthcoming Icelandic influenced Nepenthe, the lead video offers a shift in style and an interesting interpretation of personal duality. The two halves of Julianna’s self occupy vastly different places; one in a halogen lit empty car park and the other in a lush, surreal forest populated by a psychedelic cake. The song, while utilizing the same looping ambiance, uses discernible vocals as elements in the layers. They’re structural, less as lyrics to tell a story but an functional part of the tonal whole. It’s charming, etherial as always, but somewhat grounded by the tangible english.
The whole album isn’t as different as ‘One Half’, with much the rest of the album remaining true to what you’d expect from Barwick’s shimmering vocals. A few tracks feel heavily influenced by the Icelandic recording location, the hand of producer Alex Somers and cameos by members of local heavyweights Mum & Amiina. ‘Pyrrhic’ feels the most imbued by the land, built out of sighing strings, high choral vocals and an enveloping ascending melody akin to Sigur Ros’s finer moments. The album on the whole works, both newly arrived elements and familiar ones.
You can stream Nepenthe over at NPR Music. You can also pre-order the album via SC Distribution. First run of the vinyl comes in a limited edition gold and includes a poster worthy of the Icelandic tourism board.