Julia Holter –‘Ekstasis’

Before one listens to Julia Holter latest album, one must revaluate the role music plays in one’s life. Is music simply just a noisy backdrop to one’s life? Does music have the inherent ability to rise above the mundane, especially in two thousand and twelve? Of course, I am asking too many questions.

Listening to California singer-songwriter Julia Holter’s newest release, ‘Ekstasis’, I am forced to revaluate my role as a listener. And this is good. Of late, I have approached music from a passive point of view. The music plays and I listen. ‘Ekstasis’ asks the listener to become an active participant in the music. And, as bad as this may sound, it is a chore to listen to ‘Ekstasis’. And this is good.

Each track on ‘Ekstasis’ unravels a different perspective, a different way to listen to the album as a whole. Tracks like “In the Same Room” and “Boy in the Moon” are ambient, atmospheric and spacey—the compositions open up at a steady pace, leaving the listener enveloped in a warm blanket of sound and emotion. Much like an IMAX film capturing the mysteries of outer space, Holter seems to capture the mystery of the relationship between sound and space. There is something serious occurring here, something theatrical, futuristic and convincing that one hasn’t heard in awhile.

Tracks like “Four Gardens” and “Für Felix sound like a gothic and merry mixture of Dead Can Dance, Julianna Barwick, Laurie Anderson, Siouxsie Sioux and a bit of Public Image Limited.  These songs fit in their own interesting space without inhibiting the organic flow of the album, a skill that Hulter has perfected.

Even though there is barely a one-year gap between Holter’s two thousand and eleven debut album Tragedy and ‘Ekstasis’, the latter mentioned release doesn’t sound rushed; it sounds like all ten tracks were slowly cultivated and perfected—there isn’t a wasted space nor any unnecessary notes. This is how a true artist works and lives.

Holter is a classic example of an artist that benefits greatly from the Internet. It is difficult to imagine hearing any of her songs on old fashion radio. Regardless of her ability to rock the radio masses, Holter’s has a hit with ‘Ekstasis’. It will be of no surprise to see Holter’s record make many end-of-the-year best of lists. Great work, Julia.

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March 3, 2012. Albums.

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