There are undeniable parallels between the music of Julia Holter and the music of other artists with a quirky incline: think Joanna Newsom and Julianna Barwick (see below), or the pensive tremble of female-fronted acts such as Broadcast. But as much as the 29-year-old shares some musical DNA with the others, her third album is a standalone triumph.
The LA native has undertaken some original and peculiar projects over the last few years. Tragedy, her 2011 debut, drew inspiration from the ancient Greek play Hippolytus; an older undertaking saw her adapt the text of a cookbook to a John Cage score.
It might all sound a tad self-absorbed, but Loud City Song – itself apparently loosely based on Collette's 1944 novella Gigi – is a deeply mesmerising collection. Holter has worked primarily off her own steam and with a largely ambient palette, and for her third album draws on a neo-classical ensemble to expand her sound and build an intensity that surpasses even 2012's acclaimed Ekstasis.
The slow, dreamy stalk of In the Green Wild (on which Holter could pass for her fellow eerie Californian Jesca Hoop) easily matches the ghostly starkness of opener World for dynamism and potency, while the seesaw of violin, brushed percussion and chilled-out baroque pop of Maxim's I recalls Portishead at their most laid-back.
Holter occasionally allows a flush of piano, brass, strings and electronic experimentalism to bleed into her minimal blueprints, often to satisfyingly cacophonous climaxes. But the vibrant thrust of energy is dulled by the more meditative moments, as on the cello-led Hello Stranger.
Still, regardless of the method or style, these bewitching songs, both quiet and loud, reverberate more deeply with every listen. juliashammasholter.com
Download: In the Green Wild, Maxim's II