L.A.’s Julia Holter earned justified accolades across the board for her 2011 album Tragedy. Much was made of its lyrical allusions to ancient Greek playwright Euripides’ Hippolytus, yet it’s the ambitious mix of avant-composition, ambient drift and experimental pop that truly made the record a success. Holter’s fantastic followup, Ekstasis, is an even more focused affair, emphasizing a knack for pretty melodies while maintaining the medieval synth-pop sound that has become her trademark.
Playing a grab bag of instruments such as harpsichord, harmonium, squealing horns and droning strings, Holter creates a lush backdrop for her multi-layered vocals. When she sings through vocoder (“Goddess Eyes I” and “II”) it’s easy to connect the dots to Laurie Anderson, and her more acrobatic moments (“Marienbad,” “In the Same Room”) may even bring to mind Calgary expats Braids. Detractors could call out the softer moments as Enya territory, but in the end, these comparisons are merely superficial. Let Holter’s music work its charms, and what emerges is a brave new voice soaring above current trends.