Julianna Barwick is known for her looped-vocal compositions—see 2011’s great The Magic Place—but for this new 7-inch single, she has taken a different path. On “Pacing”, she meshes those ethereal vocals with piano, and yet it doesn’t present itself as typical singer-songwriter fodder. In fact, her voice has never sounded so much like an instrument, a piece played with the piano, not over the top of it. It’s another twist in her blurring of the line between singing and performing. She manages to make sounds that mean, that feel, without ever shaping those meanings and feelings into words. And yet none of this feels vague or opaque. The b-side, “Call”, takes her voice out and leaves just the piano, another shift away from the loops we expect, another angle in her exploration of sound and instrumentation, of the connection between the player and their instrument, whatever that instrument may be. These two quiet compositions are remarkably strong in their structure, and striking in their effect. Her playing is as nuanced and beautiful as her singing because, well, they are one in the same.
// Notes from the Road
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