Julianna Barwick @ The Deaf Institute, 23 Aug

Live Review by Chris Ogden | 29 Aug 2016

When The Deaf Institute has all its audience sitting down in chairs, you know you’re in for a dignified evening. That’s exactly what we can expect from Julianna Barwick, the Louisiana-born experimental artist whose critical acclaim has grown further on the back of her third full-length Will.

Barwick’s support tonight is Tiny Leaves, the stage name of cinematic neo-classical composer Joel Pike, whose piano pieces offer plenty of room to think in and luxuriate. Assisted by Barwick’s touring violinist Apollo, Pike’s music is delicate and dramatic in equal measure, urgently tugging us through the years in a way that evokes period dramas full of flown country houses and enduring regret. The BBC should probably be on the phone already.

Barwick finally emerges in front of a projction screen, gently melting between colours, and listening to her is a similar experience. Her choral drones exist in a realm beyond words or drama, providing a salve to anxiety that makes you feel attuned to the ineffable. There’s a slightly more technological edge to the songs on Will, but the effect is as celestial as ever; as Barwick repeats her mantra during Nebula, gradually modulating her synth loop so that it becomes more forceful, the crowd is stunned by where she can take us with just a few notes, as if she’s tapped right into the heavens themselves.

It’s an hour later when the audience erupts in rapturous applause, and Barwick invites Apollo back onto the stage to join her for Nepenthe highlight The Harbinger. Among Barwick’s soaring vocals, her momentous piano and her cohort's billowing violin, the only thing she's conceivably heralding is further dreams for us all – frankly, this set is a dream in itself.