JULIANNA BARWICK’s songs lack definable lyrics, create their own themes sonically and leave nameless emotional impressions. Julianna’s talents as a vocalist push most of the musical strength in her performance, her choice of melodic vocal overdubs with vocal percussion is fascinating and dizzying. Some sounds become indecipherable as the human voice. Julianna’s songwriting is based on her natural approach: spontaneously improving and recording immediately, with many of the songs written on the fly.
PITCHFORK REVIEW OF FLORINE
Julianna Barwick recently told Pitchfork that she didn’t “think” there was any guitar on her new EP. We can sympathize with her hazy recollection of the specifics– Florine leaves a lingering impression of unreality in its wake. A breadcrumb trail of piano and synthesizer guide us through the misty forest of Barwick’s voice, and we come out on the other side wondering if it really happened. The mood is blissful and bewitching; lost, but somehow secure. Using a loop station and pedals to produce cyclical patterns on the fly, Barwick’s work can’t help but recall Brian Eno’s Music for Airports. Even so, Florine feels bracingly intimate and original, in its hieroglyphic way.
The most cunning thing is how the music seems wordless at first, then divulges gentle commands, both real and imagined– stay, higher, come back, choose. Because of the album’s spare substance, these little imperatives take on a divine weight. And divinity is the spark that gets Florine going. Barwick begins with a halogen hymn, “Sunlight, Heaven”, and then builds a cathedral in the sky, “Cloudbank”. But when “The Highest” dips into tones of serene lament, her sacred equanimity begins to slide. “Choose” chirrups like Enya doing Kate Bush; “Anjos” spills Glassian waterfalls of piano; “Bode” epitomizes the cherubically neurotic flutter of Florine’s second half.
Nothing you can say about Florine directly accounts for its elegiac, magnificent aura. Except maybe this: Barwick has remarked that the album was inspired by her memories of playing music without instruments in church, and the course it charts, out of the choir loft and into the more fluctuant realms of leftfield pop and post-minimalism, could represent… gosh, all kinds of narratives: the loss of received values, the fading of religious conviction, the basic human learning curve from clean myth to murky reality. How fitting that the first song after the opening trio of tearjerkers, at the moment when the spiritual seems to lose ground to the postmodern, is called “Choose”. This blend of uplifting sounds and postlapsarian concept might account for the music’s sorrowing, joyful, dreamlike impression– it moves in two directions at once, floating upwards to describe a fall.
Plus support from Silver Pyre
Silver Pyre (aka Gary Fawle) has been gestating for a few years following two well received EPs “i)” and “ii)” released in the late 2000s. During the ensuing radio silence he has crafted and re-crafted his sparse, enthralling debut album, AeXE (pronounced “ax”).
The mysticism and myth-making of British history has been explored by artists in many ways over the years and continues to provide inspiration. Growing up in Somerset surrounded by neolithic heritage, land layers, ancient architecture and concealed industrial pasts Gary Fawle is no stranger to the sensations that these inspire.
The influences are vast – visual, structural, musical. Drawing upon folk music in both the literal and metaphorical sense, there is a strong forward-thinking element to the music – Fawle’s formative musical influences are apparent throughout the record; early Autechre releases, Black Dog, Aphex Twin; Music that was created for the post-rave/freeparty scene – a form of folk music in its own right. Clearly though, this cannot be described as an Electronic record – you can hear the romanticism of Robert Wyatt, the benign and sublime of the Fall, intelligent 80s pop music like Talk Talk.
AeXE was built in various towns and locations throughout England over a period of 3 years. Fawle had moved around the country since leaving his home as a teenager for art college in London. After this time, he returned to Somerset, living in a barn and working as a psychiatric nurse whilst he recorded his first two EPs. Moving on, he lived in various towns, including an abandoned factory studio in Norfolk – another area rich in landscapes and water worlds – and started to form the basis of the tracks that would eventually make AeXE.
Inevitably, the west country called him back and he returned to his home county, developing the songs that would form the album – parts of the record were even recorded in a Lime Kiln on the Somerset levels.
Though most of the writing comes from Fawle, he called upon friend Tom Bugs (BugBrand Modular synths) to help contribute to the sounds and rhythm as they developed music for a live setting and the songs began to morph into what is recognizable on AeXE.
Fawle performs solo, as a duo (with David Edwards of Minotaur Shock) and occasionally as a three piece (adding David Collingwood of Gravenhurst/Yann Tiersen’s band) and spends his time in Bristol – a city renowned for it’s industrial past and electronic heritage.
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