When: Mon., Sept. 30, 8 p.m. 2013
Julianna Barwick has developed a dazzling aesthetic, layering and looping gossamer wordless singing to create an ethereal sound world whose drifting constellations get their heft from gently turbulent vocal harmonies. But this approach has its limitations: because her music is all vocals, it lacks much variety in timbre, and because she builds her pieces using improvisation and trial and error, they’re often short on compositional focus. Her gorgeous 2011 debut, The Magic Place (Asthmatic Kitty), probably represents the apotheosis of this method. For her new album, Nepenthe (Dead Oceans), Barwick worked with Icelandic producer and frequent Sigur Ros collaborator Alex Somers, string ensemble Amiina, and members of Mum. She developed the songs in a studio, and unsurprisingly her cohorts impart a bit of the woozy, meditative splendor that’s characteristic of Iceland’s more expansive pop; on some songs Barwick’s voice gets lost in the floating strings and eerie drift of the Teen Girl Choir (aka the women in Mum who sing on the record). On “One Half” and “Forever” Barwick delivers clearly intelligible English-language lyrics and shapes discrete melodies, both novelties for her, and overall she achieves a satisfying fusion of her own inventions with the new context provided by her collaborators. —Peter Margasak Sigur Ros headlines.