Sultry summer nights following lazy days, you’ve just found your new soundtrack.
Mike Diver 2012
Helado Negro first heard Julianna Barwick’s music in 2009, when a click through MySpace landed him on the Louisiana-born singer’s page. Negro was immediately smitten, and the pair toured together in 2010. Now, a year on from Barwick’s mesmerising debut LP The Magic Place, which featured in BBC Music’s top albums of 2011, comes this collaborative album as OMBRE.
Believe You Me does little to exceed expectations. But it doesn’t need to, given the fine pedigrees of these musicians. It works to the strengths of each, allowing Negro and Barwick their own spaces to shine while sculpting an overall, engrossing ambience around the pair.
Barwick’s vocals are weightless, near-indiscernible things that colour the acoustic strums of Negro. They slow-dance their way around the light percussion of the divine Cara Falsa and Dawning’s sun-dappled drones. Negro comes to the fore, vocally, on Weight Those Words, his South American roots coming through clearly – although born in Florida, he’s the son of Ecuadorian parents.
Negro has said that when sessions for this set began in 2010, he had no idea how they’d turn out. “We would just throw things out there and record,” he recalls – and, certainly, there’s a freshness to Believe You Me that prevents it from slipping into naval-gazing irrelevance. It’s brighter than, perhaps, such a relatively down-tempo release has any right to be.
Negro’s psychedelic leanings are balanced by Barwick’s more spectral, somewhat sacred stylings, the results never feeling forced. There are moments when one of the two takes centre stage: the Noche Brilla bookends are showcases for Barwick’s heavenly tones, Negro a supporting figure. Cuts like Vistate and The Nod, though, are perfect fusions of individual practices.
The centrepiece of Tormentas is another number where Barwick and Negro appear in perfect harmony. His delicate guitar work is supplemented by subtle, but striking, horns, and Barwick’s constant harmonic presence lends three-dimensionality to proceedings. Primera Pausa is a pre-closer interlude of sorts that’s almost too ethereal for its own good, but its elemental beauty is undeniable.
Sultry summer nights following somnolent summer days, you’ve just found your new soundtrack.