Healing Is A Miracle
This is the fourth album by Julianna Barwick. The American musician has also made a handful of EPs and been involved in various collaborations. She is sometimes thought of as “the new Enya” and though any comparison like that is no doubt rankling to a creative entity that has carved out their own space I think she should be okay about embracing this. Enya makes uplifting and beautiful music and most people in the world have only ever heard her unlikely but monumental pop single, Orinoco Flow. And, anyway, Orinoco Flow is an absolute fucking banger mate. You do better than that? You can’t. That’s probably why you’re stuck reading this.
The other comparison that gets thrown at Barwick is that of Brian Eno. You know, because, arguably, he invented ambient music. This has a whole other set of problems attached. Now Barwick, by virtue of gender, must be called “the female Brian Eno” or “younger generation’s Eno” or whatever. But again, taking the comparison at its very best, if you are making anything ethereal and/or ambient and you are getting close in any way to very best of Eno’s output then you are a) more than okay by me and b) doing something absolutely fucking right with your life.
The only thing I’d say about Barwick at her best (which is here, by the way, on her fourth album to date) that could possibly compare her to Eno’s ambient output (and in the very best way too, I would hope) is that you can put their albums on and be fooled into thinking you might actually forget about them. They are soaked up by the room. They live in the house or in and around the space where you’re listening to them. You might think you are forgetting. But you are having them downloaded into your life. The hard-drive of your house is collecting this data.
Barwick has perfected the layered choral effect of voices upon voices and a gentle lapping of minor melody to assist. Maybe, maybe, her last album, Will, was “better” than this. But only in that the album Will was perfect for when it was made – 2016. I cannot immediately think of a better album, nor album title, to exist in and for 2020 than Julianna Barwick’s Healing Is A Memory.
And though, beyond a superficial mention, I don’t want to get into the gender of things, but if Lustmord and Burial and Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin/Oneohtrix Point Never are so good at crusting the dark heart of things, then it’s to Julianna Barwick and Mary Lattimore (who guests here on the sublime Oh, Memory) that we can turn for cresting uplifting, gently anthemic pieces that trade in hope, that are fuelled by nothing close to anger; that only want love and huge heart-feelings for this world.
This review wanted to go on and say so many other things about this deceptively simple music – the choral, glacial pace and moods of the title track, the sublime In Light which features Sigur Ros’ Jonsi and has hints of the most spiritually joyous and nearly emotionally overwhelming music from the likes of Michael Hoppé and Max Richter…and how songs like Safe have made me feel, well, safe.
But instead I’ve just spent days on end listening to it. Caught in its loops. Beguiled by it, but totally trusting of it. Held calmly in its soft and delicate sway.
Earlier today, while trying to write what I now hope passes for a review, I received an email from someone with very nice things to say. The kind that would make your day anyway. But I burst into tears as I read it. Which, I’m sure, dear reader, you will already know is most unusual. It’s an emotionally draining time for everyone. But I blame the Julianna Barwick album that I had forgotten about for a second. The house hadn’t forgotten. The walls were breathing with it. The floor could feel it. The heart of the house was warm alongside it. I blame Healing Is A Miracle. But I’m not mad at it. How could you be? This is the sort of music that feels like an eternal gift. You sit and wonder how musicians, artists, creative people, can know the right chord to strike, and how long to hold it and where to aim it and how it will hit and help and never hurt. And you wonder what it takes from them in giving this gift. I hope the toll isn’t too large at all.
Julianna Barwick has made an album of 2020. An album for 2020. An album no doubt about 2020. But I know – already it’s one for all time as well.
You can support Off The Tracks via PressPatron