13.03.2012, Words by Charlie Jones

Albums of the week

Julia Holter – Ekstasis [RVNG INTL]

Cards on the table, this my favourite record in years. Julia Holter, a singer-composer-songwriter from LA, released a concept album about Euripides called ‘Tragedy’ last year that combined ambient music with classical, folk and pop elements in a way that recalled Arthur Russell and Laurie Anderson. ‘Ekstasis’, though recorded concurrently, is a huge step forward from that already fantastic album.

Often, her work is written about with slight trepidation, and her story, from the conservatory training to the classical allusions to the brazenly adventurous melodies, can often overshadow just how simple this wonderful album is. This is a startling redefinition of songwriting, but, crucially, not a rejection. It’s a clever record, with melodies arranged like nothing else, but its brains are worn lightly. The music is sparer than anything released in a long time, yet the melodies are natural, pure, with an easy lyricism and emotionality. It’s a breather of an album, unencumbered by metanarratives or self-referential notes, simply existing in its own space.

Julia Holter is making pivotal music at a pivotal time, and the experience of listening to this flawless album is one that makes me sincerely grateful to be young and growing with her. Living at the end of a continent, but gazing out to sea, working at the end of one era and quietly working on the next. Strong words, softly spoken. Really, seriously, it’s that good. [CRJ]
Buy Julia Holter’s ‘Ekstasis’ now

Grimes – ‘Visions’ [4AD]
Claire Boucher’s fourth release, following the under-the-radar trio of ‘Geidi Primes’, ‘Halfaxa’ and ‘Darkbloom’ (a split EP with d’Eon), sees her succumb to what looks like an inevitable crossover from underground pop to actual pop. ‘Visions’ is as bold, simple, hypnotic, immediate and mysterious as its title suggests, and with all those contradictions intact. From the sugary vapour of Oblivion (the video for which – by director Emily Kai Bock, who Dummy spoke to last week – has already racked up half a million views) to the undulating whispers of Skin, it’s an impressive major label debut that retains all the freakish charisma of Grimes’ earlier material. [CR]
Listen to Grimes – ‘Visions’ on Spotify

VCMG – Ssss [Mute]
Rather than rejoin the band that made his career, ex-Depeche Mode member Vince Clarke teams up with current member Martin L. Gore as a separate entity in VCMG. Offering up an incursion into the insistent beats of modern techno, tracks like Spock, with its thrillingly crunchy drum machine, and Lowly with its growling synth line duels, play companion to a hardened head for dance music at its most base. [SK]

Nedry – In A Dim Light [Monotreme]
There are a lot who try it but London’s Nedry are a true expression of music with the universe as its inspiration. Covering a world of ideas, vocalist Ayu Okakita’s exceptional register is both grounded and independent of the remaining members’ textured sonic foundation. Offering transcendence through detachment, Okakita’s icy vocal is delivered in breathless bursts above nebulous electronics that evoke everyone from Massive Attack to Bjork. [SK]

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