Believe You Me

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In 2011, Roberto Lange "remixed" Julianna Barwick's typically lovely, diaphanous "Vow" under his Helado Negro alias; essentially borrowing a few tightly looped clusters of dense, amorphous sound as a foundation on which to construct an entirely new song in his own free-floating electro-folk-pop style, complete with laconic Spanish vocal. While it offered a fine general indication of the aesthetic commonalities the two Asthmatic Kitty labelmates would later investigate in their collaboration as Ombre, they manage to find a more equitable and more rewarding meeting point on the full-length Believe You Me, which was recorded as they were just getting to know one another as friends. It feels that way: loose, exploratory, warmly generous and open-minded, eager to share and learn, but still with a slight sense of polite restraint. They're good influences on each other, too. Working together seems to soften and moderate, rather than augment, each artist's distinctive qualities -- Lange's playful looseness helps enliven Barwick's somewhat somber, unruffled calm just as, conversely, her penchant for almost ascetic sparsity tempers his tendency for stuffing his productions with curious sonic clutter -- but they still emerge with plenty of idiosyncrasies intact. Since the ethereal purity of Barwick's solo work is probably the more singular and easily adulterated of their two aesthetics -- and since Lange is already by nature a collage artist (and, relatively speaking, a mild maximalist) -- the album is perhaps inevitably closer in sound and structure to an Helado effort, but Barwick's voice is still unmistakably present throughout, both literally -- if at times substantially muffled and refracted -- and evocatively. With its dappled, Sunday-afternoon sonics and occasional flirtations with bossa nova (on "Weight Those Words" and "Tormentas," perhaps the most straightforward things here), Believe You Me calls to mind similarly dreamy, bilingual collaborative efforts by the likes of Amor de Dias, Smokey & Miho, and Savath y Savalas (of which Lange is a sometime member.) But this is also much more of an abstract, "experimental" affair than a pop one, as friendly and approachable as it is -- only a fraction of the selections could properly be described as songs, and even those tend to spiral off down unexpected textural avenues. Lange and Barwick employ an impressive array of instrumental (and electronic) means throughout the album's soundscapes, beyond judicious use of Barwick's inimitable one-woman chorale -- from the muted trumpet and slow nylon strums of the bookending "Noche Brilla" to the numbing, piano-based micro-loops of "Sense," "Dawning"'s billowing soundclouds and sussurrating harp, and "The Nod"'s motley assortment of plucked strings, ambient rustlings, vibraphone, slippery upright bass, and harmonium. But it all serves the same spacious, softly meditative and (as you might imagine from some of those titles) satisfyingly sleepy end.

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