Top positive review
12 people found this helpful
on 12 March 2012
Julia Holter is probably destined for comparisons with Julianna Barwick. Both choose to work alone, have a penchant for renaissance music and like to overdub and layer their vocals, oh and their names and physical appearance are kind of similar too. Even though thats all true, Ektasis doesn't really aim for angelic transcendence like Barwicks 2011 opus The Magic Place did. Instead it's a little more progressive, avant garde and unpredictable. This album floats from choral music to minimal electronic music than to middle eastern and free jazz, (sometimes in the same song). All these styles are delicately woven together on ekstasis to create a fascinating tapestry of sounds that sommehow feel like they were made for each other.
Take Four Gardens which begins with an oriental flourish of delicate xylophone hits, electric synths and a viola? That is soon to be accompanied by an out of control sax, muted drumming and some other peculiar ambient noodlings. Whilst all this is happening over the song's 6 minute length, Julia Holter's voice chameleonically transitions between the Far east, The Middle East and the West with such skill as to appear blithe whilst doing so. In The Same Room is a little more conventional in it's construction, however it's still eclectic by any artists standards. Combining the airy gradiations of a subdued drum machine, sustained organ and breathy vocals (think Beach House) whilsts conjuring up the feel of julee Cruise and Baroque music with her versatile singing/self harmonisng and a lingering harpiscord being played in the background.
Julia Holter is a very talented artist who can flawlessly mimic Laurie Anderson's vocoder brilliance in one song and match Joni Mitchel's emotive voice in another. Yet, she avoids accusations of plagarism by borrowing just a little from these artsists and blending it with something abstract or ambient, to produce a style thats truely her own. The lack of a strong melody or hook could be a problem for some listeners who may want their music to sound a little more visceral and a little less cerebral, which isn't really a problem for me as i can enjoy bepop as much as hard rock.
However, this album does feel a little slight and meandering at times when it takes one detour too many, Which stops me from wholeheartedly endorsing it as a masterpiece of multifarious art music. This minor criticism may turn out to be lacking in validity though, as their are probably a myriad of subtle nuances that i may have missed through not listening to this album the dozen times it may require to truely unravel it's genius. If my last paragraph is void, you should definitely buy this! If i'm right you should still buy this, because it's that good even with the caveats.