Julianna Barwick Maritime Conservatory of Performing Arts, Halifax NS, May 26
Published May 26, 2014I can't speak for other cities, but at times it feels like we've hit "peak loop" in Halifax: there's a number of local artists who rely on loop pedals to pull off a larger-sounding live show, and nearly every festival that comes through brings along a handful of performers whose music depends on accumulating musical patterns, one on top of the other. This year's OBEY Convention has been no exception, as it attracts the sort of experimental artists (often based in solo performance) whose soundscapes are simply not possible without loops.
Even the best loop-based shows risk sameness, and I confess there were fleeting moments during the festival-closing set by Louisiana-raised Julianna Barwick when I felt weary from the repetition. But then, each time, a particularly pretty vocal harmony would stir me. Barwick's voice is her primary instrument, with an incredible range and high-precision control over her upper register. With words unintelligible, she creates tiny choirs, line by looped line, that sound ethereal in their accumulation. You don't need to have read her bio to know her churchly influences: the various parts flutter through the speakers like dancing spirits. Accompanied by the occasional piano and synth riff, it was a slow, sweet and soulful winding down of an impressive weekend.