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Album of the Month: JULIA HOLTER. “Aviary.”

Written by on January 6, 2019

KXSF Album of the Month. January 2019.

Los Angeles musician Julia Holter’s music has seen such a satisfying evolution.  Since her earlier solo keyboards/electronics releases she has gradually added musicians (strings, reeds, brass, bass and percussion) and moved more into song forms in a chamber pop mold. 

Loud City Song, whose lyrics were inspired by the novella and film Gigi, brought us a somewhat chaotic city dreamworld where society watches and judges one another.  Have You In My Wilderness, her last album, is her most accessible and most personal lyrically (her earliest records had adapted from Greek plays), but in a cryptically poetic way.  Against beautiful ensemble playing, Julia trills or affects a Laurie Anderson-like deadpan Sprechgesang vocal approach.

Which brings us to Aviary, a more “difficult”, but more immersively intriguing listen.  Holter has created an uncanny soundworld here that exists nowhere else I’ve heard.  A medieval Bladerunner sound was her intention and that’s exactly what it sounds like.  Described by Holter as “the cacophony of the mind in a melting world”, Aviary once again features strings and brass, as well as added synthesizer and bagpipes, in addition to her keyboards and beguiling vocalizing.  Although a somewhat lengthy program, it is best taken in whole, the better to appreciate her unique vision.  Julia Holter is without question one of the most impressive composers and performers of this century and you could do worse than to attend her Great American Music Hall performance this March, if past performances are anything to go by.

By Gage Kenady.