Video: Juliana Barwick's "The Harbinger"

Julianna Barwick has released a live video for “The Harbinger,” from her new album, Nepenthe.

Curiously, the album version always—always—reminds me of the opening chorus to The Rolling Stones’ 1969 hit, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” Here, though, whatever hint of triumphant rock’n’roll that may exist in “The Harbinger” is replaced by the impressionistic strokes of cold, windblown colors and sheer textures. We hear the crunch of gravel beneath footsteps, the lapping of waves, sniffles, the chimes of an iPhone—all of these elements are captured, looped, and folded into the piece.

The video was filmed by Derrick Belcham for La Blogotheque’s excellent “Take Away Show.” From the press release:

Belcham says, “Iceland is a broad and magical island with ample space to allow a sound or a perspective to expand and be enriched by the landscapes and its welcoming people. For a few months in 2012, Julianna and I had the privilege to do just that.”

Barwick was recording Nepenthe with Sigur Rós collaborator and producer Alex Somers, and Belcham was documenting the experience when they heard about the lake where the video was filmed. With guidance from Somers—“Drive towards this park...pass all the huge fields of moss and the pony farms. You’ll see a series of mountains in the distance and the coast to your side. I guess these are terrible directions that could lead you anywhere in Iceland.”—Belcham and Barwick sought it out. Barwick describes it as “something out of a fairytale. Derrick and I drove deep into Þingvellir National Park. We were alone for a really long time before we finally came upon the lake. The water was iridescent blue-turquoise, surrounded by snow-capped mountains. We set up and filmed quickly as it was absolutely freezing!”

Some will question Barwick’s use of an iPhone. Why disturb the natural setting with a high-tech device commonly associated with urban living?

Why not? It seems to me that a large bit of Nepenthe’s soul is found in the merging of perspectives, styles, places, and forms. Barwick traveled to Iceland with the specific intent to write and record an album. There was little doubt that the album would be influenced by the unfamiliar environment, but also little doubt that Barwick would bring with her a bit of home.

Nepenthe, Julianna Barwick’s third full-length album, was released on August 20th, by Dead Oceans, and met by a lovely piece in The New York Times. Barwick will perform live, tonight, at BasilicaSoundScape in Hudson, NY. From there, she hits the road for a month-long North American tour with the mighty Sigor Ros. For a complete list of tour dates, visit Julianna Barwick's official website.

jimtavegia's picture

It couldn't have been that much harder to take a Tascam DR-2d in 2496, an ART battery mic pre and used the mic she had in the video and really come back with a great recording experience. When MP3 is good enough, I guess, why bother. Another opportunity least to me.   

A $699 Tascam HD/P2 has 2 built-in mic pres and does 24/192 on SCHC cards. That would have been an easy carry up the mountain. 

.dexter's picture

I love this album, however, after making a pilgrimage to Rough Trade to pick this up in the pouring rain, I was dissappointed to see hear distortion on the vinyl version where the digital version has none!  This was verified through discogs as well, other reviewers note the distortion on the black vinyl, apparently the limited gold edition vinyl also has distortion.  You would think that by now human beings would be able to accurately press vinyl with no distortion. I love your column and reviews, but it would be helpful if you could mention if you find distortion on the vinyl so there are no surprises if you do notice it.  I suspect you did not notice the distortion on nepenthe so you did not mention it.

Stephen Mejias's picture

I suspect you did not notice the distortion on nepenthe so you did not mention it.

With this blog entry, I only wanted to share the video and the music. I haven't actually played the vinyl version of Nepenthe. I will, however, and, if I hear any kind of distortion that isn't supposed to be there, I'll report on it.