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Julia Holter

16/04/2013 By James McLarnon

Julia Holter‘Try To Make Yourself a Work of Art’ is a track name from her creative but ever so slightly primitive debut album Tragedy but it may as well be Julia Holter’s manifesto. Throughout both 2012’s wonderfully accomplished but slightly clinical sounding Ekstasis and this year’s warm, constantly rewarding, modern classic, Loud City Song, her focus has remained steadfast on stimulating the senses in both an intelligent and instinctive way.  The Komedia was lent an intimate feel by the jazz club seating arrangement and the hyperactive smoke machine, making it absolutely perfect for the occasion. Make no mistake Julia Holter’s long awaited Brighton debut must rank among the finest concerts in the city this year.

The focus, quite rightly, was heavy on the Domino released Loud City Song. A decision to open with the complex, vocally challenging, yet hook-filled chamber pop charm of album highlight ‘In The Green Wild’ was potentially brave. However, in Holter’s hands it was an opportunity to showcase the brilliance of her band – violin, cello, saxophone and intricate percussion – as well as her own versatile, yet constantly fantastic vocals and accompanying keys. Her stage presence immediately put the room at complete ease. Holter’s thought-provoking, intellectually satisfying but potentially heavy subject matter was lent an air of lightness by her playful, modest, yet ultimately confident demeanor. An achievement considering 2011’s Tragedy references an ancient Greek play whilst the new album uses a post-war French film and novel for inspiration.

Hers is a well-placed confidence, as overall her performance is beyond reproach. This was evidenced by the powerful yet controlled vocals on slow burning but attention-grabbing album closer ‘City Appearing’ as it was by the encore of first album highlight ‘Goddess Eyes’. The later’s beautiful, progressive vocal melody and linear structure was both one of the night’s most memorable songs and a suitably fitting finale. Both the above tracks juxtapose wonderfully with her more complex arrangements such as the urgent and cinematic ‘Horns Surrounding Me’. She was equally at ease telling the story behind the lyrics of ‘Goddess Eyes’ as she was bizarrely but endearingly comparing Brighton’s beach with LA’s. Dichotomies are clearly important to her, referenced by the constant battle of pop and art in her songs, keeping them frequently at the tantalising point of boiling over both emotionally and intellectually. The standout track from Ekstasis, ‘Marienbad’. is the highlight of an exceptional concert, the multi-part song was performed perfectly and in a way that immediately brought to mind legendary, cerebral and trailblazing female musicians such as Laurie Anderson or Kate Bush.

I suspect supporting Holter on this tour will be a double edged sword for Lucretia Dalt. The opportunity to perform in front of a respectful, knowledgeable crowd is undoubtedly a good opportunity for her and there are some stylistic similarities between the two. Both are clearly multi-instrumental songwriters from a bedroom pop tradition. Unfortunately, the best support act couldn’t have looked great or been particularly memorable up against an artist on this form. Bar a few moments of excitement, Dalt’s impeccably observed set falls decidedly flat.

Julia Holter : Be Nothing presents
with Lucrecia Dalt - 7:30pm Tue 12th Nov 2013 @ Komedia
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