[Review/Listen] – Julia Holter – “Ekstasis”

I’m still waiting for a drone album to change my life.

Seriously, that’s what the intentions of the ever-growing overload of atmospheric music feel like. Think about the recent Frankie Rose LP “Interstellar” or M83‘s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”, there was an invisible tension that comes while listening to them. That somewhere along the line, an existential epiphany was supposed to overwhelm your heart, body and soul and suddenly, everything will make sense. Like that part in “Almost Famous” where Zooey Deschanel advices a young Patrick Fugit that he can see his life’s future with a lit candle and a listen to “Tommy” on vinyl. Except with drone music, one would feel confused or distorted before ever experiencing a form of self-actualization.

So let’s make sense of Julia Holter: an experimental, no, abstract pop artist from Los Angeles. Her second LP, “Ekstasis”, is a determined little bedroom pop record dying to show its guts and craftsmanship. In a style beaming with impromptu efforts constantly justifying its own sloppiness, Holter earns full marks for her diligent service by putting some structure in a spineless genre. It’s this artistic laziness that drives Holter to challenge the conventions in unconventional pop music.

Now, “Ekstasis” can be easily summarized or drearily elaborated over. Sometimes, it feels like a version 2.0 of Joanna Newsom’s “Have One On Me”; more often than that, Holter even comes off as a slightly sober Claire Boucher (a.k.a. Grimes). “Ekstasis” certainly comes off eclectic, but matched with Holter’s ability to blend austerity with accessibility it somehow manages to hold together. The album soaks in every carefully matched sonic concept Holter has laid out for us, everything from the bewitching compositions and vocals to the catchy pop hooks. Through the three years creation process of the album, Holter refuses to put herself on a pedestal in the clouds, instead more interested in making resonant pop music that she won’t find herself resenting 2 years from now.

It’s admirable to see self-awareness in a scene sometimes shrouded by artistic misdirections. In that sense, Julia Holter could be the white knight for experimental pop/drone. Her attention-to-detail approach paired with gorgeous sonic structure on “Ekstasis” will be remembered as we see the hit-or-misses in this style for years to come. It may not be “Tommy”, but gives us some hope for a life-changing album to grace us all soon enough.

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