Wild Mercury Sound

Julia Holter: "Ekstasis"

Julia Holter: "Ekstasis"
John Mulvey

One of my favourite labels at the moment is probably RVNG INTL, thanks mostly to the Blues Control & Laraaji album I fixated on at the end of last year, and to the forthcoming collaboration between Sun Araw, M Geddes Gengras and The Congos.

There’s also, though, Julia Holter, whose forthcoming album is a crystalline pleasure called “Ekstasis”, and is the sort of cleanly-etched and marginally ethereal record that seems very well-suited to bright winter days like this one (in London, at least).

If you drop in on RVNG’s site, you can hear “Marienbad”, the first track from “Ekstasis”, which gives a pretty idea of what to expect. Comparisons are to some degree invidious when dealing with such an individual artist but, nevertheless, you could feasibly pitch Holter’s music as a cross between the nuanced trajectories of Joanna Newsom, and Julianna Barwick’s sepulchral and in some cases disorienting use of ambient effects.

As you’ll hear, there’s also a point in “Marienbad” which exquisitely promises a dance breakdown that never quite arrives; a link, perhaps, with Fever Ray and a de-gothified Zola Jesus. One of my wise colleagues also spotted a certain melodic kinship with the Aphex Twin circa “Richard D James”.

Once or twice, the rest of the album verges on being rather winsome indie-synthpop, but Holter is always skilled at pulling her music into a less expected place. The final “This Is Ekstasis” begins as a dislocated piano ballad, expands into a chorale of dislocated Holters (which reminds me, thrillingly, of Linda Perhacs’ “Parallelograms”), staggers onwards on knifelike synths, and gradually finds a place for some meandering jazz.

There is a free sax solo, some panting, eerie incantations, double bass and cellos, and a sense that Holter is keen to mix an unorthodox but vivid kind of pop with something akin to the avant-garde; maybe those of you who’ve heard last year’s “Tragedy” would know more about that? One last damned comparison, anyhow: if you were as disappointed as I was with the last Björk album, check this out.

Follow me on Twitter: @JohnRMulvey


Editor's Letter

The 39th Uncut Playlist Of 2014

A lot to get through here, but I'm indebted once more to the resource that is www.nyctaper.com, who this week have posted two amazing live sets by Steve Gunn and Ryley Walker. Elsewhere, there's a new Waterboys track to check out,...