One theme of ambient-informed music like Julianna Barwick’s is the idea that musical epiphanies aren’t necessarily best achieved in a straight line. Music that immerses the listener can speak at least as profoundly as music that “speaks” in a narrative, storytelling sense. The latest video from the Louisiana-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s otherworldly Nepenthe begins with her quite literally immersed, floating face-down in water. As gauzy vocal harmonies pile up patiently atop languid keys, the clip for “The Harbinger” takes its own circuitous path.
A translucent Barwick steps into a young woman’s room, and, without spoiling it too much, that woman walks in something like Barwick’s footsteps, finding for herself a certain mortality-tinged rapture. Director Derrick Belcham, who previously helmed Barwick’s “Crystal Lake” video, says in a statement: “The video illustrates a moment in which an individual makes a sudden choice which they know will change their life forever, for better or worse, and the freedom that this affords them, liberating or oppressive. It is a non-linear illustration of catharsis.” It’s real purdy, too.