Julianna Barwick Rosabi [EP]

[Dead Oceans; 2014]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: presence, radiation, holiness
Others: Jónsi & Alex, Dogfish Head Brewery

Look: 3  |  Smell: 2  |  Taste: 4  |  Feel: 3.5  |  Overall: 3

L: Red noise under my eyelids from the summer afternoon sunlight. Blotches of white and orange forming and reforming themselves like seafoam, as my closed eyes adjust to cloud cover. The rose and cream surface of the sun, a blood moon, yeast head risen to the top of a fermenting bin. A musician wearing a patterned dress and a half-smile as she poses with an overall-clad brewery president in his workspace.

S: A little fishy, the motivation for an artist of minor popularity to collaborate with a widely-distributed brewing company to celebrate its expansion. It might be an overreaction to consider this ostensibly one-off partnership a symptom of the corporate takeover of the indie music world, especially when any opportunity for new music from Julianna Barwick is a good one. The release at first seemed to me like maybe an experimental (commercial) recording project for Barwick, whose music has the power to change affective space, and the humdrum buzz of brewery might provide a new sort of energy for her. But according to the press release, “Dogfish gave Julianna recordings of its new equipment at work — from brewing, through fermentation, filtration and bottling — and she layered those sounds into four new songs.” So: less a site-specific recording piece, more an opportunity for cross-promotion. Is there a naïve note of sourness that comes from the fear of “tarnishing” an artist whose output has an air of purity? I ought to get all this nonsense out of my head and listen to the sounds, which does still have exactly that air of removal, retreat.

T: Sweet, familiar, and comforting. Her music feels as powerful as ever, and the bubbling, churning “found” sounds that back Barwick’s vocals never really intrude or impress. It’s filler-atmosphere, the same sort of faint field recording ambience she’s used to fittingly minimal effect on past releases. The EP’s arrangements and mood are closer to the sparsest moments from The Magic Place. There’s the calming push and pull of Barwick’s vocals coming in like waves between a plucky bass-synth melody on “Two Moons,” the persistent swell of her voice on “Pure” that never quite crescendos, and then tapers away into silence. At 15 minutes, it’s easy to drink it up on repeat.

F: Medium-bodied, a fullness and lightness that emanate from the warm center of the project, Barwick enjoying some solitude after the partnerings from 2013’s spectacular Nepenthe. Where that album landed with a sense of post-rock grandeur (maybe just the majesty of string soundscapes and keys paired with that voice), the Rosabi EP has the feeling of a minor release, which is still major for all us Barwick stans who just wanna lay in the grass and soak up the songs like radiation. These songs might be forgettable, but while you’re with them, they make you forget yourself, too. There’s a sense of presence that comes with her music, that puts you in your place and outside of your small stresses. Even if we’ve heard it all before, it’s still mesmerizing to listen to her work.

O: An EP-like relief, wasting time, consuming space, doing you.

Links: Julianna Barwick - Dead Oceans

Most Read