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Julianna Barwick's art is equal parts force and beauty. Her music finds its motor in significant events in her own life, but they are abstracted into a sense of sonic wonderment, a radiance that you could say is her signature sound. That radiance has been taken to new zeniths with Nepenthe, her third full-length album, which was recorded in Reykjavik, Iceland, in the dark cold days of February. 'Nepenthe' is intimate without being introspective. Instead it's a radiant array of light-dappled choral works, drawing a powerful sense of hope from the depths of despair. The extra musicians have rounded out her sound, emphasizing the yearning mood, the reaching towards the light. Check the teenage choir's ecstatic crooning on 'Forever,' or Amiina's shimmering sound clouds on the glorious second track, 'The Harbinger.' 'Offing' and 'One Half' are the perfect showcase for her seamlessly layered vocals, which circulate and settle upon one another like sheets of gauze on the breeze. Far from the secondhand emotions and digital dabblings of so many other artists, Julianna Barwick's music is the real deal: a life-affirming work of importance, interest... and sheer beauty.
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