Looking Forward: Julianna Barwick’s Nepenthe

Julianna Barwick’s third full-length album, Nepenthe, is scheduled for release on August 20th, by Dead Oceans. Unlike Barwick’s previous work, largely self-produced in her Brooklyn bedroom, Nepenthe was produced and engineered in Reykjavík, Iceland, by Alex Somers. And while Barwick’s earlier work is made mostly of her own voice, Nepenthe features contributions from Icelandic band Amiina, guitarist Róbert Sturla Reynisson of múm, and a female choir.

From the label:

In ancient Greek literature, nepenthe was a magic drug of forgetfulness used to wipe out grief and sorrow. The title suggested itself to Julianna, who experienced a death in her own family in the middle of making the record, but it also refers to the music consoling her during the isolation she was going through—on her own, in a foreign country with a terrible internet connection—during the sessions. Nepenthe’s heady potion is about moving forward, finding a way through difficult times—of retaining a feeling of hope.

Iceland’s magnificent landscape and thriving music scene provided additional inspiration. Says Barwick:

I was inspired just by being there, and the gorgeousness of that place. Your eyes can’t believe what they’re seeing. I walked home one night and got totally lost in Reykjavík. I ended up walking alongside the ocean—and it was glowing blue. It looked like it had a lamp underneath it. This is a completely different experience than recording myself in my Brooklyn bedroom.

Here’s a look at that landscape and a peek into the recording studio, set to “Forever,” a track from Nepenthe:

dalethorn's picture

Stephen's on a roll - based on the figures shown in the video, some (producers? directors?) in shadow, it would be interesting to read more about how this was done and the participants.

Stephen Mejias's picture

The video was directed by Derrick Belcham of the design firm, A Story Told Well. They provided album art, promo photos, and the teaser video.