For nearly a decade now, Julianna Barwick has made a career out of articulating the ineffable. The New York artist’s songs are built out of competing clouds of voice—her own—looped, processed, reverbed, and filtered through what sounds like some kind of divine light. Over the course of three progressively more sanguine full-length albums, Barwick has built upon her strengths, slowly adding layers of production finesse as well as deftly-employed instrumentation—synths, cello, drums—to augment her ephemeral sound.
Her newest album, Will, is also her most curiously dynamic. Recorded in fits and starts between upstate New York, the Moog Factory in Asheville, North Carolina, and Lisbon, Portugal, the record also includes contributions from Mas Ysa’s Thomas Arsenault, Dutch cellist Maarten Vos, and percussionist Jamie Ingalls. Will all but eschews conventional song structure in favor of compositions that move and mutate like cyclical, natural forms—collages of sound that build and retreat with the sonic quality of fog—a delicate mass composed entirely of soft edges. While the record certainly bears some of the hallmarks of Barwicks earlier work, Will skews slightly darker in tone, adding textural elements like more pronounced synth sounds, additional human voices, and in the case of album closer “See, Know,” actual drums.
Given the nature of her music, Barwick has grown accustomed to weird expectations. “I think people assume I’m just like some weird lady who lives in a tree or something,” she jokes when we meet up for lunch in Brooklyn. In reality, Barwick has spent the better part of the last three years continuously on the move. Spending time with her, it’s clear that her music—much of her life, actually—is deeply rooted in natural curiosity that was informed by a childhood spent singing in church choirs and a lifelong affinity with the nature.
Though she takes her work very seriously, Barwick also has a funny sense of humor about it. “I’m not this gentle fairy creature person,” she tells me. “I like to be mischievous and I love funny stuff. I get that what I do is kind of weird and not everyone is gonna get it, but I’m really not some super boring New Age person…I hope.”