Photos and words by Rez Avissar
I remember very clearly the first time I heard Julianna Barwick. I was listening to the Portuguese radio show Má Fama, two summers ago. First, came "Unt. 4," a simple, repetitive and haunting tune that drew me in and piqued my curiosities (still one of her overlooked gems). When that tune segued into "Dancing With Friends," that's when I knew I had found a great artist.
"Dancing With Friends" is a song that evokes warm hues, community, and, as its title suggests, friendship... while I can't actually imagine many people dancing to the tune, I've always pictured a gathering of children dancing around in the warm red hues of a fire-lit living room, with Indian headdresses on their head. Needless to say, it's inviting, it's great, and even without words, it speaks volumes. Julianna Barwick sculpts her songs out of her voice and occasionally an instrument or sample here or there; her voice is always the central element, and there's always repetition, her main weapon being a loop pedal. She performed an extended rendition of the tune for Má Fama six months later in a wonderful session (no direct link, just scroll down). (Sadly, the blog and radio show have been abandoned, but you can still download both posts). The appearance led to coverage by popular blogs and a few ripples of attention, but proper recognition still eludes Barwick. She has since remixed Radiohead, done a Daytrotter session, played New York regularly, and just recently dropped her second release, the Pitchfork-approved Florine EP. Each has done its part to help her steadily rise, and more and more people in the blogosphere seem to be picking up on her name. I believe that if she keeps it up and builds a body of more great work that she will get the attention she deserves. On this night, only the first of her Pianos residency, the attendance was a bit underwhelming. Barwick seemed at home, though, an she communicates with her audience as one would performing to a small group of attentive, like-minded friends.
When she told her audience "I'll play just one more; it's a long one" I knew we were in for her ten-minute "Untitled" tune which she performed on the aforementioned Daytrotter and Má Fama sessions which sounds like a chanting chorus of children raised on Animal Collective, and was a perfect way to end the show.
The lighting in there was awfully dark and I feared the sound of my clicking shutter would disturb so I kept the photos to a minimum. In fact, I probably wouldn't even post them here, but I feel Julianna Barwick deserves the attention and I will totally throw whatever support behind her that I can. Head over to her MySpace page for the full list of upcoming tour dates, and don't sleep on catching her live. She's doing something truly beautiful and unique.