Kevin’s Music Reviews: Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place

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As I sit in the midst of The Magic Place trying to assemble words that describe the ethereal world I’ve been transported to, I’m finding it increasingly difficult to remain professional and avoid falling off the tightrope into effervescent poetry and word vomit, losing my credibility to recommend this subtly beautiful piece of music at the price of self-indulgent imagery. As much as I’d love to give you a tour of my mediocre poetry skills, I’ll try not to lose my readers as I escort you through the pathways of a sound that is, in fact, very easy to get lost in.
This album’s substantiality is less a sound to describe and more so a world to explore. Barwick embellishes the album from top to bottom with lush, dreamy vocals and serve as sort of the force field that makes up a drifting, formless realm as if there to remind you that there’s a soul to this otherwise bleak, ethereal dreamscape. Her voice provides a calming ambiance and angelic nature on top of being the core of the music, utilizing choir-like chants and Enya-isms in the mix as well. The atmosphere created by her voice is incredibly lush, and much like the album artwork accurately defines, is very forest-like, and occasionally chimes in a rather Celtic fashion.

Exploring the music’s wonderful imagery is where The Magic Place truly delivers. This is music that caters to an attentive listener, but it also serves well as a soothing background adornment. Vocals evoke a vividly church-like essence, more in an ancient church abandoned and riddled with weeds and foliage kind of way and less in an “I really don’t want to be here” kind of way. Actually, “ancient” isn’t a very bad adjective to pull from the listening experience at all, with a fleeting, spiritual echo travelling through what feels like an empty, almost forsaken environment, gently swelling with fantasy-esque otherworldliness like that of a mossy Irish castle or like something out of Hyrule. For an album with such a powerful ambient potency, The Magic Place possesses a certain pedigree of accessibility that more minimal ambient pieces lack, with a more highlighted presence thanks to its emphasis on vocals, without losing its ability to transport your imagination or decorate the soundscape with a vivid, mood-changing air.

Stream/purchase the album here:

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