Ecstatic over Ekstasis
CD CHOICE/Ekstasis****:Julia Holter’s creative nous is to be treasured. Last year the Californian singer and artist arrived on the scene with Tragedy, based on ancient Greek writer Euripides’ Hippolytus. The album dazzled with its rich, wide swathe of musical smarts rather than any erudite knowledge of classic literature. It also marked Holter as one to note, an artist in thrall to how pop can be anything and everything you want if you put your mind to it.
Ekstasis is further proof of the resoluteness of this maxim. Like its predecessor, the title borrows from the Greeks (thanks to Wikipedia, we know “ekstasis” is an ancient philosophical term for the displacement involved in being outside one’s self). But the musical scope is wider, tighter and much more freewheeling.
Holter’s ambient pop palette may have certain precedents – Laurie Anderson here and there, Joanna Newsom in places (without the caterwauling) – but she’s fast moving to her own spot in the field, where you gauge sounds based on how Holteresque they happen to be.
There’s considerable range on offer here. Marienbad and Boy in the Moon reflect Holter’s experimental side, each placing her voice over an array of spacey, colourful synths. Then there’s In the Same Room, a track whose gorgeous melodies and effective purr contain elements that could snare a wider listenership.
Perhaps the most telling aspect of Ekstasis is just how compelling it is as a record. There are few lapses or languours in the album’s trajectory, with Holter’s pitch-perfect, delicate plotting bringing the listener along for the entire trip. Indeed, there should be little cause for persuasion because these are songs that pull you back in again and again.
Ekstasis is a magnificent record, one which marks its creator coming of age. You might say that it’s truly Holteresque. juliashammas holter.com
Download tracks: Boy in the Moon, Marienbad, In the Same Room