Review Summary: "I can see you / but my eyes are not allowed to cry".
With the release of last years "Tragedy", Julia Holter quietly nudged her way into the list of artists to look out for. Although "Tragedy" had been ultimately too fluid to stomach for a less eclectic fan-base, it's whirlwind composition grated the surface of a more formal structure. What it lacked was a skeleton. The follow-up Ekstasis keeps the stream-of-conscience fluidity of it's predescesor, and puts it into shape - not always a simple one. The result is a shape-shifting organism droning in and out of an ocean of textures and whirly choirs, with Holter's voice at it's gravitatial center.
If there is one binding theme for Ekstasis, it is the feeling of moving outside oneself. "I can hear a statue wonder why they're so still". Like the suggestion of psyhic empathy in the opening line of the first track, the music seems to drift in and out from itself. The emphasis in her vocal staccato captures, contains, and eventually releases the spacey vibrations building around it. The synthy textures are sometimes brief, and often subtle, before disapearing into the background - but it's up to Holtner to decide which one she will work with before exhausting it and challenging another idea.
We continue to follow Holtner along this path of introspection, and our attention is sometimes drawn outside ourselves with the music. The floating notes seem sensitive and abstract until Holter breathes them to life with her voice. Such is the case of the relationship enacting between the employment of classical instruments ( marmbia, saxophone, violin), and the noise-pop, serving to compensate one another, yet not always flawlessly. As the notes melt into yet another wave of sound, constructing, de-constructing, and so-forth, the organism takes on a shape not quite whole, or ever complete. A lot of songs could have evolved into something terrific, but ultimately lack conviction. Für Felix forces itself to be too humble in the face of a colossal atmosphere, which is the scope it begs to evoke. In The Same Room and This Is Ekstasis, the closer, seem to heel over in resignation. Through and through, redundancies persist (I don't see the need for another Goddess Eyes).
Despite these errors, Ekstasis is a worthy, fun, and novel approach to a new wave of pop music, that draws parallels with artists such as Grimes and Beach House. The difference, however, between the already generic dream-pop/electronica hybrid, which took a revolutionary step forward into the current agenda of independent music, and Ekstasis, is that it doesn't even pronounce itself as a pop record. It simply, and beautifully, has all the airs. Rather than being anything close to dream-pop, it's more of an investigation into daydreams. Holter will find herself in the forefront of such a movement, with Ekstasis as her ticket in.