Release Date: Oct 26, 2018
Record label: Domino Recording
Holter recognises that too much of what holds the world together is melting, whether that be the standard of public discourse, the dignity of institutional power or the literal constituent parts of our ecosystem. Holter never used to think her music had a political aspect, though she has changed her mind about that. “What I’ve come to realize is all music is political,” Holter says.
It says something about the current moment that Julia Holter chose to make an album capturing the present. Her previous inspirations have been consistently antique. 2011's Tragedy was an operatic take on Euripides's play Hippolytus, and 2014's Loud City Song pulled from the mid-20th century French novella Gigi. While creating Aviary, Holter sifted through the noise around her.
Be warned: a full appreciation of this album requires numerous listens - it offers little at first glance, but the moment you surrender yourself to this fate, all becomes clear. The euphoric opening of "Turn The Light On", soon tumbles upon itself surrounded by Holter's wailing. A method which applied generously throughout Aviary, Holter is the conductor of an auditory experience like no other.
In naming Aviary, her studio follow-up to 2015's Have You in My Wilderness, Julia Holter took inspiration from a line from a 2009 short story by Lebanese-American poet and essayist Etel Adnan: "I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds. " It struck Holter as a suitable analogy for the loud lives we lead in 2018, with fresh hells served up daily as each of us struggles to deal: artistically, emotionally, somehow hopefully, with an eye toward some plausible future. Holter's baroque textures and wildly ambitious musicianship imply this aviary's particulars: wrought-iron, ornate and Victorian, vast and overflowing with untended plant life.
At the heart of Julia Holter's pristine chamber pop there exist a felt wisdom and a profound poise. Like a deep breath on a subway car, or a private meditation amid a bustling city street, her songs exude an elegant calm, but they do not often stay still. They dramatize; they swarm. Her work frequently references and even quotes such writers as the Greek playwright Euripides, the French novelist Colette, and the poet Frank O'Hara, but never at the expense of her own composed voice.
Aviary opens with what could've been a rousing finale. On Turn the Light On, Julia Holter cries out with wild abandon as a turbulent orchestra teeters with overblown opulence. It's that majestic in construction, a chance for the Los Angeles composer to reacquaint herself with her deconstructionist approach to songwriting. It leads us to believe that Holter is operating on a higher plane, completely unbound, pushing her high art as far as it can go.
During the second half of the 2010s, much of Julia Holter's music revolved around different kinds of confinement that ranged from her soundtrack work to the verse-chorus-verse forms of Have You in My Wilderness. Aviary feels like the natural and opposite reaction to all this structure; at a generous 90 minutes long, it gives her plenty of room to express herself as a composer, songwriter, experimental artist, and indie musician. Inspired in part by a quote from Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan ("I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds"), Holter's sixth album reflects and responds to the feeling of sensory overload that dominated the late 2010s.
It is as if something inside Julia Holter has snapped. After the small platform release of her early records, her two most recent albums have come out on the indie heavyweight Domino Records and they have been an exercise in exploring how Holter's experimental tendencies can best find a sizeable audience, culminating in the modern day masterpiece Have You in My Wilderness in 2015. However, the course of Western civilisation has taken a number of hits since …Wilderness's release three years ago and Holter evidently feels the artistic responsibility to confront that fact.
The Lowdown: After spending the better part of a decade redefining Avant-pop, Julia Holter has composed her most immersive record yet. A 90-minute sprawling epic that draws inspiration from Blade Runner, Medieval French folk songs, contemporary Lebanese-American poetry, and Dante's Inferno, Aviary is a dreamlike kaleidoscope filled with wonder and surprise. Holter creates an all-consuming experience where drifting ambiance is placed next to chaotic clanging noise without the two clashing.
33-year-old avant pop extraordinaire Julia Holter does not make music based on what people want. While her 2015 album Have You In My Wilderness was rather easy on the ears and appealed to a wider audience, it was dotted with leanings toward complex song structures and abstract lyricism. With her new album titled Aviary, Holter forgoes pop simplicity for no-holds-barred obscurity and an otherworldly merriment of sound and time that will certainly challenge the bravest of listeners.
With 2015's critically acclaimed Have You In My Wilderness, Los Angeles-based avant-garde composer/songwriter Julia Holter finally seemed to have discovered a winning balance between innovation and accessibility. While earlier records Tragedy and Ekstasis had been complex and challenging, characterised by long, meandering sections which frequently became impenetrable, Have You In My Wilderness, although still highly imaginative in its song structures and instrumentation, had shorter tracks, a refreshing melodic simplicity and a welcome reining in of self-indulgence that gave the album a much wider appeal. Rather than building upon this successful shift in direction, Holter has opted to step back into the swirling maelstrom of her previous work both feet first.
Over her past four albums, Julia Holter has built a reputation for making music that sounds strange, sometimes beautiful and often unconventional. For fifth album 'Aviary', she curates a mix of disparate sounds and feelings; at times, the album is a cacophonous collision of sounds, such as in opener 'Turn the Light On' and, at others, a delicate blending of soft, slowly building instrumentals, like the 8-minute minimalist, ambient opus 'Chaitius'. Just as you feel you've got the album figured out, it throws a curveball.
Julia Holter has lost her mind. But it's okay, you probably have too. Over the past two years, you've likely spent a large portion of your time entranced by more apocalyptic events and their analyses than you'd like to admit. It's a maddening and frightening time, and it's easy to view Aviary, Holter's first studio album since 2015's Have You In My Wilderness, through the filter of that same madness.
T o say that Julia Holter's fifth album is dense and difficult is an understatement - in an ideal world, Aviary would come with its own dedicated edition of York Notes. Laden with literary references, Latin text and lyrics that strain under the weight of impressionistic meaning, it's a record that is difficult to parse but easy to admire. On her previous album, 2015's Have You In My Wilderness, Holter proved she could squish her avant-garde sensibilities into soaring pop songs.
Upon first hearing 2015's critically adored 'Have You in My Wilderness', it felt as though some of Julia Holter's sharp edges had been smoothed down. It felt strange in places, still identifiably Holter, but stranger still was the impression that something like 'Feel You' could sit happily on a Radio 2 playlist. Three years on, the artist returns with 'Aviary', an album grander in scope, bolder in execution, and replete with jagged edges.