For a few years now California based composer, vocalists and all round audible gem Julia Holter has been garnering acclaim for her somewhat avant garde, ambient based attempts at pop. She’s become somewhat of a darling to those with an ear pointed towards the more alternative end of the spectrum and if anything her latest release Have You In My Wilderness is poised to earn her even more plaudits.
In a manner similar to its predecessor Have You In My Wilderness is a record that implores quite a large soundscape, yet the manner in which it is arranged creates a very intimate and at times isolated vibe. Filled with skipping double bass lines, bursts of saxaphone, jaunty harpsichord patterns and some seriously beautiful string work there is a very elegant, free flowing motion to a lot of the records instrumentation. But underpinning this lighter state of being is a denser and somewhat darker sensibility. Tracks like “How Long?” scale things back and stretch out the veil of Holters sound to create quite the ethereal atmosphere, whilst a heavy crescendo like the one at the tail end of “Sillouhette” can act as a sharp jab to the ear and add even more texture to an already rich source of sounds.
But the singular instrument which continues to be one one of Holters most potent is her voice. On one hand it wields a great deal of power pushing bold choruses forward with conviction, yet opposing this is a gentle, fragile sense of delicacy. In the records more sombre and hushed moments her vocals cut through cleanly and pierce with icy precision. Both approaches often lead to impassioned and emotive displays, especially when they merge with some of the records more personal moments. Along with over arching elements of nature there is also a thematic emphasis on longing and loneliness to this record, two subjects which are magnified greatly by the ever changing sound of Wilderness. It’s this relationship between Holters instrumentation and songwriting that makes the LP such a joy to absorb.
For some Holter’s unraveling soundscape may be a tad distracting or disjointed, there may even be some who see album number four merely as a reconfiguration of whats come before. But for me Have You In My Wilderness is a wonderful maelstrom of spectral instrumentation and introspective thinking. It’s imaginative, heartfelt and at times wonderfully strange, a real tonic of engaging material from a musician who continues to impress.