Sofie Birch & Antonina Nowacka “Langouria”

This is an enchanted dream world. Langouria hovers on the edge of a neon waterfall, looking out over opulent vistas singing lilting melodies in soft clouds. Sofie Birch and Antonina Nowacka are a magical pairing. Birch’s organic, weaving soundscapes are the perfect atmosphere for Nowacka’s otherworldly vocals. This combination of grounded, terrestrial sonority and celestial vocal harmonies is ageless, as though the duo have tapped into a secret, sacred strain and pulled it from the ether and into their welcoming arms.

Quiet chord progressions pierce the night on “Morning Room I,” the most gentle plucks opening pinholes for light to seep in. Nowacka spins multiple threads that not only intersect with the resonant echoes but with each other. It’s the sound of an old world awakening to something new and unseen. “Sudany” carries this spirit deep into the electric forest with synths bubbling like a hypnotic stream through cascading voices shimmering like holographic shapes between towering pines. Shapeshifting becomes a transformational belief in these lilting expressions.

In tandem, Nowacka’s beguiling vocals and Birch’s aural benedictions are a cocoon where we’re safe to explore the furthest reaches of our imagination. Field recordings pepper the surfaces of “Pripugale,” processed and multiplied across zither strums to fill in shadows. Nowacka soars behind a curtain of dulcet guitar excursions and cosmic drones in the opening moments of “Lilieae,” setting the temperament for what’s to come. Musically, dark undercurrents plod forward as whimsical accouterments glide skyward. Dichotomies are one of the biggest strengths of Languoria, and the way Birch and Nowacka fuse disparate ideas into entirely new ground is remarkable.

Throughout Langouria, there’s a familiar feeling just out of reach. I think I’ve heard these elements before, but it’s a trick. This music is almost indescribable, but the strings Nowacka and Birch are pulling have been unearthed from hallowed ground. By transporting us to beautiful, alien worlds, they show us parts of our world we’ve buried deep within ourselves. This is music of all time and all places, reconstructed with a sweetened urgency and reinterpreted as a new sonic paean. In the opening notes of “Lileae” and the closing buoyancy of “Outro,” dawn begins again. Langouria is stunning. One of my favorite albums of the year.

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