This is the exquisite album we were promised, and perhaps an important one.
While it may be a tremendously personal album for Barwick, you can get lost in Nepenthe for not only its sheer beauty, but for its ability to evoke visual cues and tell stories with its music.
The cohesion of the overall experience is intrinsic to its arresting impact and over the course of these ten modest tracks Nepenthe makes the world seem a much more serene and beautiful place.
It's not only her biggest and most ambitious production to date, but also the album that best showcases her gift for communicating complex emotional entanglements so simply and clearly they become almost weightless.
Even though wordless for the most part, Nepenthe creates a sense of heaviness and despair; while The Magic Place was definitely best suited to soundtracking the sunrise of dewy summer morning, Nepenthe is contrastingly an album for dusk, when the light is fading and the landscapes go silent.
You sense feelings of longing and unease all over Nepenthe, which makes it a less blissful place to spend time than her previous album. But that also makes it a much more cathartic listen, and perhaps a more rewarding one.
Nepenthe takes her sound its next logical step forward by filling out her music with a wider range of acoustic instruments that underpin the sonority of her vocals, with the help of sometime Sigur Rós affiliate Alex Somers
It may seem strange to get so excited about a record of vocal loops, but Barwick continually proves that truism that art isn't about elements but what you make of them - and this latest album is simply sublime.
Barwick takes time coming into focus; her actions sound remote, at first, quieter and less fulfilled, but it’s the kind of album that creeps up to you, asks for your hand and takes you to a different place entirely.
Nepenthe is more ambitious than its predecessors, more varied in style and execution and sonically richer. It’s also, perhaps, harder to hear Barwick in there, among the full-bodied arrangements and pristine production.
Depending on your tastes, Nepenthe either marks Barwick's progression to a higher, more emotionally powerful and resonant place, or she's managed the musical equivalent of Instagramming her album.
|# 19 -||Cokemachineglow|
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|# 48 -||The Line of Best Fit|
|# 35 -||Tiny Mix Tapes|
|# 30 -||Under the Radar|