Julianna Barwick's 2011 album The Magic Place earned a lot of attention for its use of massed vocal overdubs in the service of ambient sound paintings. It's a sign of the Southern-bred artist's depth and staying power that she figured how to effectively follow up that record without turning her gift into a gimmick or entirely abandoning her established approach. Nepenthe is no drastic detour from The Magic Place—it employs lush, pillowy clouds of multiple Julianna Barwicks to equally ambient effect. But the album also finds Barwick working in new, more collaborative circumstances. Recorded in Reykjavik, Nepenthe matches Barwick with a batch of kindred Icelandic spirits, including Birgir Jón Birgisson of Sigur Rós, Robert Sturla Reynisson of múm on guitar, the string ensemble Amiina, and a choir of Icelandic girls. All of these accompanists remain on the "sympathetic support" side of things, leaving Barwick plenty of elbow room to work her vocal magic—but their subtle contributions help define the album as a creature all its own.

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