Julia Holter’s Ekstasis was released towards the end of 2012 and it contains some of the year’s best hidden gems, so if you managed to miss it, you might want to track back. Laced with subtle synth melodies, vocals that fall somewhere between Kate Bush and Bat for Lashes and a very modern pop art style it’s a great album to listen to when you just need to get a little perspective on the world in general.
Ekstasis is beautiful, left-field and as changeable as the weather, flicking in different directions, changing pace and building expanse throughout its multi-variant folds. The tracks feel like they have Acts almost as though they were written for the theatre, which is a novel take on songwriting. Marienbad, Our Sorrows and In the Same Room all move through a progression of different sections like they’ve been composed by a classical musician moving into the world of experimental modern day pop.
There are also vague traces of Sigor Ros about the album, especially on Boy In The Moon, which has elements of Nico in the vocals. This changes to a classical feel on Für Felix, before taking a step into the future with stripped, electro brilliance in Goddess Eyes II, which is probably the coolest song on the record (take a listen to the music stream below).
The classical elements of Ekstasis get a French twist in Moni Mon Ami before heading for a Japanese summer in Four Gardens, which adds some mental jazz into the mix. The second version of the earlier track, Goddess Eyes I switches it to a rawer sound with more fuzz, feedback and clean vocal overlays.
The album finishes up with more jazz influence in a post-modern sort of way, bringing in surreal psychedelia, Irish strings and choral vocals. All in all, Julia Holter’s second studio album makes for an excellent pop art record that sounds on paper like it may get a little stilted at times, but the reality is that it’s a clean listen without any skips, missed beats or wayward wandering.
Holter followed up Ekstasis with the critically acclaimed Loud City Sound in 2013, and then with Have you In My Wilderness in 2015, but the second album in her discography is still our favourite. It was one of the best albums of 2012 and easily one of the coolest pop art records of the last decade or so.
Julia Holter, Ekstasis album review: 4.3/5