“Aviary” by Julia Holter – Album Review
Experimental jazz-electronica queen Julia Holter’s new release is a double LP inspired by a short story on being trapped in the titular aviary, surrounded by cacophonous birds (an experience not unlike walking by the Cathedral at night I imagine). Holter manages to take these chaotic, existential feelings and translate them into an imaginative musical statement. A first listen to Aviary feels almost overwhelming in its willingness for extremity: the album even opens with an endless wall of blaring orchestral build, with strained vocals riding along waves of tension and release.
A first listen to Aviary feels almost overwhelming in its willingness for extremity
The first disc of Aviary continues this sonically exploratory trend. “Chaitius” is bookended with sustained orchestral expeditions split by a call-and-response section via vocal manipulation. If this breakdown was not enough for you, “Voce Simul” enters with a low bubble borrowing from the sounds of Blade Runner and Silent Way-era Davis, before a glitch-but-also-big-band bridge. After pushing this nightmarish, avant-garde mindset to its peak on “Everyday is an Emergency,” the first single interrupts the album for a perfectly-timed breath of fresh air. As “I Shall Love 2” kicks in, Holter doffs her tin foil hat to show off her pop sensibility ponytail we saw in spades on Have You in my Wilderness. This song is so damn good it deserves a review all to itself. Its melody is vulnerable yet floating within this dystopian palette as if to say that however damaged we all are, there will still be love. “Underneath the Moon” continues on this more straightforward approach, taking cues from afrobeat with its thick layers of percussive patterns.
Aviary is an abstract album, but you probably already knew that if you know who Julia Holter is
The synth and drum programming flirt with energetic live percussion to give a woozy, almost out-of-time feel as if the song were being performed live. The second half of the album has a tangible gloom, giving me the feeling of being imprisoned in some castle. Noir piano
allads “In Gardens’ Muteness” and “Words I Heard” aren’t as immediate as some other tracks but give space for the somber lyrics to take centerstage. The separation of halves here calls to mind King Krule’s The Ooz, with its bombastic opening easing into subtler experimentation more prone to growth. Aviary is an abstract album, but you probably already knew that if you know who Julia Holter is. The “auditory setting” she is going for is consistent throughout without losing steam: all the while, nothing stops Holter from making music in a league and universe completely her own.
Edited by Nick Jacobyansky
You can listen to “Aviary” below: