Julianna Barwick builds a paradise of her own design with Healing Is a MiracleShannon Nico Shreibakon July 3, 2020 at 4:26 pm

While wounds can be stitched and broken bones may mend, other types of injuries never fully heal; perhaps they linger as phantom pain or burrow deep into the brain’s pathways. It’s these imperceptible traumas–and the impossibility of recovery–that consume Julianna Barwick on her new fourth solo album, Healing Is a Miracle. The Los Angeles-based composer and vocalist cultivated her voice as a church chorister while growing up in Louisiana, and she began crafting her own music in the mid-2000s–building gauzy atmospheres in solitude with little more than her reverb-armored soprano. For Healing Is a Miracle, her debut on vanguard electronic label Ninja Tune, Barwick enlisted a coterie of collaborators to add much-needed flesh to her sonic skeletons. Harpist Mary Lattimore shudders her way through “Oh, Memory,” the vocals of Sigur Ros founder Jonsi echo wistfully in imaginary canyons on “In Light,” and producer Nosaj Thing–who’s worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper–helps Barwick close the barely 30-minute album with the indulgent vocal overdubs and muffled percussion of “Nod.” To make this material, Barwick set aside the primitive headphone setup she used on her previous releases and recorded using studio monitors for the first time. That bolstered toolbox allowed her to approach Healing Is a Miracle with an emphasis on the physicality of sound–how a bass tone can resonate through the body or a single note can penetrate every pore–and made possible some of the record’s boldest moments. On the dizzying siren song “Flowers,” she pummels her hyper-laminated vocal loops with blistering synth pulses. While Barwick’s creative process is indebted to synthesis and circuitry, Healing remains tethered to the mystical realms of nature while her many voices ring like relics of revelation. v

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