Aviary

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aec.domi80417.2 10/26/18 New
$14.98

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Review

Review Text During the second half of the 2010s, much of Julia Holter's music revolved around different kinds of confinement that ranged from her soundtrack work to the verse-chorus-verse forms of Have You in My Wilderness. Aviary feels like the natural and opposite reaction to all this structure; at a generous 90 minutes long, it gives her plenty of room to express herself as a composer, songwriter, experimental artist, and indie musician. Inspired in part by a quote from Lebanese-American writer Etel Adnan ("I found myself in an aviary full of shrieking birds"), Holter's sixth album reflects and responds to the feeling of sensory overload that dominated the late 2010s. The album's length feels like a rebuke of attention spans shortened by constant screen time, and demands listeners engage at a slower, more receptive pace. Fortunately, Aviary is some of Holter's most dazzling, mercurial music, and the liberation she felt making it is audible at every turn. She begins the album with some of its boldest tracks, which use barely controlled chaos as skillfully as she employs careful arrangements. "Turn the Light On" throws open Aviary's doors with a joyful riot of strings, brass, and surprisingly powerful vocals. "Whether" briefly shapes this cacophony into something approaching pop, then Holter tosses listeners another curveball with "Chaitius," a fragmented eight-minute suite that plays like a microcosm of her music at its most challenging and beguiling. Similarly, "Everyday Is an Emergency" -- named after another phrase that guided Aviary's creation -- juxtaposes shrill free jazz that conveys the portable, pocket-sized dread of constant news alerts with caressing pianos that suggest respite is possible, if temporary. Some of the album's most beautiful moments occur when she goes deeper into these moments of serenity. The luminous "Another Dream" and "I Shall Love 2" (the latter of which frames love as an action and borrows from a troubadour song and Alice Coltrane) are all the sweeter compared to Aviary's more frantic tracks. Holter's ability to combine wide-ranging inspirations into strikingly original music remains remarkable. "Underneath the Moon"'s rustling beats sound ancient and futuristic at the same time, while "I Shall Love 1"'s chanted vocals reveal a medieval influence that sounds both authentic and modern. While Aviary's second half gradually settles into contemplative ballads like "Colligere" and attains a wintry stillness on "I Would Rather See," Holter still delights in surprises such as "Les Jeux to You," a brittle meditation on the bubonic plague that she interrupts with a choppy, exuberant outburst. On Aviary, Holter answers the chaos of 21st century life by following her bliss; the result is a constellation of moments that celebrate the fullness of her music and, as always, make for fascinating listening. ~ Heather Phares

Track Listing

CD: 1

  1. 1. Turn the Light On
  2. 2. Whether
  3. 3. Chaitius
  4. 4. Voce Simul
  5. 5. Everyday Is an Emergency
  6. 6. Another Dream
  7. 7. I Shall Love 2
  8. 8. Underneath the Moon

CD: 2

  1. 9. Colligere
  2. 10. In Gardens' Muteness
  3. 11. I Would Rather See
  4. 12. Jeux to You
  5. 13. Words I Heard
  6. 14. I Shall Love 1
  7. 15. Why Sad Song

Product Details

Release Date
10/26/18 

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