Julianna Barwick Will

[Dead Oceans; 2016]

Rating: 4/5

Styles: will
Others: Kara-Lis Coverdale, Grouper, The Choir of the Benedictine Nuns of the Saint Mary Abbey of Maumont Responsory Verbum Caro, Sleep ∞ Over, Ian William Craig

Notes to a variation on Florine

Will: like waiting or precipitation, like power or intention, like promise. Will is so good.

If Nepenthe is to be believed, the magic place is a kind of forgetting place, which I can’t help but feel and believe halfway. It was ornate, remote; Will is sparse, local. To begin with a Voice Memo field recording and to fade out forcefully and all too soon after instruments had just signaled the drama of an album is to introduce the lie of forgetting as prologue. Forgetting is one way to weather what won’t dissolve of its own accord, but Will is immediacy, the presence of the future, the prescience of memory. Pain is not seedless. And so, Julianna will never bring me down. Her music brings me out.

Out of my mind — being in the world around — detachment from and attachment to the tangle of relations and scenes in conversation with me, a mindless contemplation of cohabitation, a mindful immersion under the full moon. Soaking up the sun, minding the surf. Someone’s playing Future out of their parked car speaker for an apartment block party at 2 AM on a Tuesday night. Barwick recorded Will on her own and all over.

The suite movement of Nepenthe is made granular, into small shifts in the orbit of a main pulse. The album is a quiet awakening, a reverberating chord before and after organs, the clarion noise boded by Sanguine. Will like certainty: The wasp, which came through the window that I opened to cool my room, won’t sting me while I sleep.

Out of my mind — being a little relaxed in my headroom — listening to the hums and hymns of music from nowhere, watching the hyperdrive montage of images I’ve never seen before, the soft static of every murmur, hiss, and holler I’ve let out to myself staring hard into an inch-deep reflecting pool. Will like instructions: The things that matter are going to the people who matter. We heard gunshots the other night, when I stayed up all night while Mercury went direct. The wheels of houses turning as seasons, as they will. Another body dissolving into the mixture of loneliness and love. Can Will be a potion that restores memory? Remember the good, what worked, the bad, what didn’t, the boredom, what scrolled, the portals, what you could change through, the hollows, what you could imagine.

Listening is an act of imagination (I listen to Barwick when I’m alone). I feel most at peace when I feel of a piece and in pieces. It’s impossible to see who I’m waiting for in my raincoat. I stayed up all night long till the shadow of telephone wires sank down my closet doors and across my floor and disappeared. A wasp never came.

I feel like that. I feel like that all the time: The same way, some way. A power in waiting, in quiet. The subjectivity of tenses. The will of inevitability. A call and response, the voice returned, retuned (from strings, from Thomas Arsenault, from reverb).

Barwick’s music is lyrical, wordless, a poetics of negation and repetition. The scatter-worlds of play, ambiguity, and never-empty space. So it breathes, conjures. Do you feel better about yourself? Do you feel better about yourself? Do you feel better now that you’re listening? When I heard about Barwick, it felt more a prescription than recommendation.

“It’s funny to think that the ‘review,’ then, is what you’ll never actually read.”
– Max Power on Nepenthe

In something sparer, a deepening. The power of clarity, of speaking your mind. Directness cannot be mistaken for simplicity. This music took time, precision, intuition, will. But it is the same. It doesn’t demand reverence, but its immense power might go null if not for the voidless silence that could introduce it, carry it like a medium into your every day everyday.

Some people are fully clothed and alone. A few are shirtless and throwing a ball around. The sun is shining through a cloudbank there just enough to keep the heat back. I pull up right to the water’s edge, where it is less a crowd that the small waves actually make a sound and I fall asleep with my phone playing music from the bowl of my helmet into the summer air. And Will sings into myself a song I’d forgotten.

Links: Julianna Barwick - Dead Oceans

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