Julia Holter – Aviary

And they say the album format is dead…

It may well be on a monetary level but needless to say, it does not stop artists like Julia Holter from using the album format to make her statement.

And quite an artistic statement is Aviary.

Clocking at just under 90 minutes, the record is a experimental odyssey with so much depth and beauty, it is initially overwhelming. Similarly to the first time I heard Kate Bush’s ‘The Dreaming’ or Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’, the album reveals its’ magic and gradually blossoms with repeated listens.

The title is inspired by Lebanese American writers Etel Adnan quote ‘I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds’. Such a sound collage can be blissful, peaceful, quietly unsettling. Julia achieves this in fifteen tracks that don’t have a distinct structure as such but dive into experimental explorations, build in tension and widen up a panoramic canvas of sounds consisting of piano, strings, drums, trumpets and even bagpipes; as well as Julia’s typically layered and ambient vocals.

This is demonstrated in ‘I Shall Love 2’, the first track to be released. There is not too much more needed to be said about the music as it is far better for it to be experienced. That being said, the noticeable trait of Julia as shown in her previous works is her evocative ambiguity. Julia didn’t really know how to articulate herself when I saw her live, she appears introverted and coy on social media. Ultimately, her goal is to get lost in the Music. There is no conventional structure, no direct meaning to the songs she does, instead there is an internal dialogue, a collection of sounds and words that may at times be on a lyrical level non sensical, outright bizarre but ultimately so satisfying.

And when so much Music out there is so formulaic, so lacking in it’s risk taking and no more than chewing gum for the ears; this record is a breath of fresh air. I have listened to this record with headphones on by a beach, I have listened to this record whilst turning the lights off in my apartment with dimly lit candles. Whatever way I have enjoyed discovering this record, ‘Aviary’ is truly an exhilarating musical experience.

The best records for me have been released by three women this year, Janelle Monae’s ‘Dirty Computer’, Natalie Prass’ ‘The Future and The Past’ and now Julia Holter’s ‘Aviary’. All of which showcase in their own way a defiance to the current chaotic climate we find ourselves dealing with in 2018. They are a celebration of opening up to vulnerability, love and truth…and that is when Music becomes so powerful.

‘That is all’.

 

Advertisements

My Jan/Feb Playlist

The Haxan Cloak – Excavation

The Haxan Cloak is an artist I discovered through Bjork’s latest album, Vulnicura. He contributed towards the production of the album and his personal characteristics shone through on ‘Family’ which is probably my favourite piece on the record. A low pulsating whirwind of such sonic depth that it shakes your very core. Such a sound gives you a very visceral image of what it is like to see your family fall apart.

His own album though is even yet more terrifying, one of the scariest musical experiences I have encountered probably since listening to Throbbing Gristle. The clue is in the title, and the album artwork. It would be an exemplar horror soundtrack. Some of the most impressive low frequency recordings I have ever heard, heavy beats, whirling strings, humongous reverb: it is masterful electronica music. Turn the lights off and prepare to let yourself be very creeped out by this record.

Julia Holter – Have you in my Wilderness

I have been very fortunate to discover this absolute gem of an artist. How refreshing it is discover someone new that just seemingly does whatever she pleases. Julia is very fun to listen to and her recent record has really seen her mastering her craft of writing artful pop music. There’s a lush range of instruments on display, stunning strings throughout with ‘Lucette stranded on an island’ being a personal favourite of mine, an awesome double saxophone solo on ‘Sea Calls Me Home’, and Beatles vibes on ‘Everytime Boots’. Heck she even rocks a harpsichord in ways that I would never imagine possible! Julia definitely has you in her wilderness, and you keep on wanting to come back to the record, time and time again.

Julia Holter – Loud City Song

As with any artist I discover, I get super obsessive with their back catalogue and similar musings are on display here. The exception being that the album is very much dedicated to themes of living in a big loud city, and how that impacts one’s life.

Jackson Browne – Late For the Sky

Jackson Browne is a writing genius in my book. Not so well known in the UK. But he wrote Take it easy and has associations with The Eagles. His album, ‘Late For the Sky’ has some of the wisest lyrics I have ever heard, up there alongside Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, in a time where music that mattered drove the culture so much more. It is a heartbreakingly beautiful album to listen to, tender, deep, comforting.

 

David Bowie – Blackstar

The man can only be marvelled at for choreographing his own death. Death is indeed a part of life and one that art explores often. However, there is something about Blackstar that is visceral in ways I’ve never experienced before. I saw Lazarus before knowing Bowie was going to die, and the transformation of the song’s actual meaning became very haunting.

Bowie is an artist who has indirectly influenced a lot of people. He has always been there in my musical upbringing and what is particularly notable about his death is that it marks the end of an era, where artists could experiment, push the boundaries and still be accepted by the mainstream. I hope Bowie’s parting gift resonates with people not only as just a great record, but a beacon for the future where a new generation of acts can arise who can push the boundaries once again.

 

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Out of character of my normal tastes you may say. Good music is good music and Kendrick Lamar’s recent album is one of the most exciting hip hop records I have heard in a long time. I think his outlandish and uncompromising lyrics and the concepts exploring racism, hood politics and soul searching are enthralling but the music and production of this record offers some jaw dropping moments. Lamar also fearlessly ventures into jazz at times, this is a record subsequently that has a lot of people talking…a brilliant record.