Music review – Julia Holter: Ekstasis

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Julia Holter
Ekstasis
RVNG Intl.

Julia Holter’s new record Ekstasis – its title taken from the Greek word meaning standing outside oneself – is the most engaging piece of music that I have encountered in this young year. Fans of Holter’s 2011 release Tragedy will find much to love here. Again we are led into another unfamiliar sonic landscape, guided carefully by Holter’s intuitive production choices and versatile voice.

Sonic touchstones abound: in the sophisticated vocal interplay of “Marienbad,” we find traces of (past collaborator) Linda Perhacs. The highly rhythmic cello work in “Für Felix” suggests the sparser side of Arthur Russell. The ghost of Laurie Anderson appears in both of the vocoder-rocking “Goddess Eyes” pieces, providing the record with its most surreal, yet deep groove pop moments. These influences appear beautifully, yet never override Holter’s singular artistic vision.

“Boy in the Moon,” an ethereal, improvised meditation over waves of Casio SK-1, displays the hallmarks of Holter’s aesthetic: meticulous attention paid to sculpting sonic architecture, evocative vocal performance, and thought-provoking lyrics. Holter languidly intones, “I can see you drinking my thoughts.” Yes. Yes, I am. Please, never let them end.

Holter recently told The Wire that her artistic goal was to capture, “[t]his feeling of being one with something, but… not,” and it is the exploration of this curious paradox that gives the collection its power. Although it’s only March, I contend that we’ll be hard-pressed to find another record this year with not only as much ambition as Ekstasis, but, more importantly, one that realizes its ambition as wonderfully as this one.

Joel Blechinger
Contributor

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