Julia Holter
Aviary


4.5
superb

Review

by SowingSeason STAFF
October 30th, 2018 | 374 replies


Release Date: 2018 | Tracklist

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.



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user ratings (112)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Marehelm (4)
An experience....


Comments:Add a Comment 
gryndstone
October 30th 2018


1174 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0 | Sound Off

i think the dot-painting analogy is pretty accurate. The thing is it takes a lot less than 90 minutes to appreciate a dot painting

rabidfish
October 30th 2018


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

good review Sow, i agree, if you go in this expecting traditional songwriting, with sing-along lyrics and verse-chorus structures you are in for a disappointment.



It's more about sounds than about melodies, love it more the more i let go.

Digging: Black Kray - Ice Cream & Mac 10s

ButtBoy
October 30th 2018


964 Comments


I get unreasonably mad when albums are over 1 hr. I've been hearing a lot about this and I was getting excited to check it out, but seeing I'll probably never be able to listen to this and actually focus on it in one sitting, I'm a lot less excited now and a lot more irked.

Demon of the Fall
October 30th 2018


8629 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

@rabidfish: There is a such thing as a happy medium & more importantly restraint, music doesn't have to be instantly accessible or unforgivably obtuse.

As for the album itself there are certainly moments of beauty & splendour but I do also find it a little frustrating in parts.

Digging: Charles Mingus - Mingus Ah Um

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 30th 2018


28373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The most frustrating moment to me is Emergency, it's just annoying. Outside of that I can get behind most of her artistic decisions, even the ones that require patience.

Digging: Julia Holter - Aviary

Demon of the Fall
October 30th 2018


8629 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I enjoy this a lot more from 'I Shall Love 2' onward, the opener & Emergency are both slightly grating at times & it's overly wandering until that point. The 2nd half is gorgeous at times, it really is.

rabidfish
October 30th 2018


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

nothing against more structured music lol, i love it too.

just saying, not the right mindset to get the most out of this. If you don't get the kick out of the beauty of sounds themselves and need more of a compelling melody, or a narrative focus, or a lyrical focus, then you probably ain't going to get it.

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 30th 2018


28373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I get the main gripes surrounding this because HYIMW was my first Holter experience, and its melodic qualities are what drew me to her. This caught me a little off guard at first - both the length and rambly progression - but like you said, if you just fall back a bit and let the sounds wash over you, it's blissful.

theBoneyKing
October 30th 2018


15485 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I respect what the album's going for, but I'm starting to think it's just not for me. I don't really feel anything while listening to it.

Digging: The Twilight Sad - Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2018


23857 Comments


lovely review Sowing, dug the somewhat shorter length

Digging: Pistol Annies - Interstate Gospel

SowingSeason
Moderator
October 30th 2018


28373 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks Atari, I felt it was easier to take a summative approach due to the album's length.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2018


23857 Comments


yeah it works really well here. not that I don't appreciate your longer reviews but this write-up is both concise and convincing

plane
Emeritus
October 30th 2018


7302 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

This is a quality "reactionary" review, that primes the listener for what will happen without dissecting the nuances of the production or themes. Agreed on a lot of your points.



I actually think disc 1 is the true genius to this record, but disc 2 obviously has the sterling tunes. But for all the attention to the experimental/pop divisions, these halves feel like self-contained pieces and are more forgiving as standalone albums than most recent double albums that have a set-up/comedown structure. Either could have been released as a worthy follow-up, but together they make up a generous, beautiful epic (if you've the time).

Frippertronics
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2018


18008 Comments

Album Rating: 4.7

dude big ups for the save, well done sow

Digging: Ichiko Aoba - QP

mynameischan
Staff Reviewer
October 30th 2018


214 Comments


I respect what the album's going for, but I'm starting to think it's just not for me. I don't really feel anything while listening to it.


i gotta agree

plane
Emeritus
October 30th 2018


7302 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

8(

rabidfish
October 30th 2018


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

>:T

neekafat
October 30th 2018


12984 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Goddamn pumped to check this

FreddieDelaney31
October 30th 2018


4897 Comments


Finally giving this a go and I'm having a visceral hatred towards initially tbh
It sounds like noisy wank to me-cool, I'm sure it's compositionally accomplished but there is absolutely nothing to latch onto vocally, thematically or emotionally

rabidfish
October 30th 2018


4195 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

vocally, maybe...

thematically?EMOTIONALLY???



WRONG.



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