From the very first track of Aviary, American singer/songwriter Julia Holter’s fifth album, it is clear that this is a work of immense scope and ambition. There is a cinematic melancholy running throughout, yet there is also a playfulness bubbling underneath the surface. The album throbs with cultural diversity. Julia’s haunting voice is surrounded by a perfect cluster of sounds, strings, organ, harp, bass guitar, digital sounds and so many others contribute to her ambient but busy sounding and ethereal work. Her album seems heavily inspired by 20th century music, with impressionist and minimalist-like scales and passages.
Another Dream is track six on the album and sticks out due to its synth-heavy theme and the way in which the sounds warp throughout. The pitch bending and perfect panning of this song adds to the stunning atmosphere of the music. The intro holds some sense of cheer and happiness, which is in some way unique when compared to the rest of the album. Holter released a single prior to the album release, I Shall Love 2, this opens with a slow beautiful ambience and progresses to a more complex instrumental love song with an incredible use of creative percussion and almost out of tune sounding guitar accompaniment that works remarkably well.
Aviary’s mystical sound is almost completely reliant on musical instruments, digital sounds and timpani-like percussion rather than vocals and lyricism. However, the few faded vocal parts throughout the album bring a ghostly and nostalgic effect that holds the album together and makes it so emotionally provocative. On the surface this album creates a soundscape that at first appears tranquil. However, that sense of tranquility is an illusion and in reality Aviary is a dense and complicated whirlwind of emotion, beautifully imagined and realised. It is an album that rewards repeated listening. What Holter has created here is a brilliant projection of her creative and musical mind and knowledge of world music.
The album is challenging and interesting but also relaxing and easy to listen to, which is a mix that takes a musician of great talent to produce and wildly impressive.
Aviary is out now via Domino Records.