Review Summary: Free-wheeling dreams
At fifteen tracks, each hovering in the six-to-nine minute range, Aviary
presents a daunting task. It’s a world that requires dedicated immersion; a commitment to its unwieldy time length but also a staunch distancing that allows you to engage its thousands of intricacies. More than Loud City Song
and the semi-accessible Have You In My Wilderness
, this is a record that thrives in space, with ambient stretches and experimental whims that seemingly go on forever. It’s like a dot painting; there’s plenty that can be observed up close, but it’s prudent to step back and see the entire picture for what it was intended to be. Aviary
’s imagery is best experienced this way, like a panoramic overview of beauteous landscape. It should be taken in reflexively; absorbed through your senses instinctually rather than actively dissected as a traditional set of songs.
Holter’s voice is still a focal point – but it’s more distant, echoed…forlorn. She breathes enticing melodies into the music seemingly without effort, and they swirl around like leaves caught in an updraft – wispy and insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Chimes echo, strings swell from miles off, drums clatter, and electronics bubble and murmur. Her voice sways with the flow of the album, adding in a gorgeous hum or chirpy quip in spurts and however the music dictates. A grander nature surrounds this ninety-minute opus, and it feels as though Holter is merely observant, as opposed to in charge. There’s a peculiar disorder to the whole thing…a spellbinding tumble down the proverbial rabbit hole. All of this isn’t to say that Aviary
simply floats by, though. While the majority does indeed wind through its complex experimental makeup, there is no shortage of junctions to forcibly intervene. That’s actually how the album begins, with the cathartic and celebratory ‘Turn the Light On’ – a track akin to a “big bang”, or “let there be light!” moment. ‘Everyday is an Emergency’ is jarring, even bordering on unpleasant. ‘Whether’ features a very decisive beat that could have potentially been molded into a digestible pop single, if it weren’t for Holter’s experimental whimsy, dissonant delivery, and general refusal to ever let something so rudimentary come to fruition. Aviary
may offer a plethora of awe-inspiring soundscapes and melodies, but it’s far from easy listening.
Julia’s latest work is her most accomplished. And while this isn't a perfect album, it just might be her most encompassing. It's daringly experimental, sometimes to a fault but usually to its undeniable benefit, and there's a dimension to this that her previous two albums lacked altogether. This is a complex, stunning, and challenging record that will undoubtedly alienate some. But if you’ve enjoyed Holter to this point, it is worth investing the necessary time. Aviary
touches every corner of her sound, resulting in an enchanting, if slightly dizzying, fifth album.