(Domino Recordings, out Fri 26 Oct 2018)
In a sea of twee folksy singer songwriters, it’s reassuring that we are blessed with some genuinely unique and gifted artists who occupy their own sonic territory: singular women like Annie Clark, aka St Vincent; Kathryn Joseph, Solange, Jane Weaver, FKA Twigs, and Mary Epworth. Los Angeles based multi instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Julia Holter is yet another, making sounds on her own terms.
Aviary, her fifth album and follow up to 2015’s Have You In My Wilderness sees Holter create perhaps her most exhilarating work thus far, inspired by an Etel Adnan short story making reference to “shrieking birds”. There’s nothing here as melodramatic as a Hitchcock nightmare; rather, Holter is more fascinated by more insidious visions, the kind that lie half-buried in the subconscious.
Everyday Is An Emergency starts with shrill sirens, but melts into a haunted, creepy lullaby. Elsewhere, as with the woozy Underneath The Moon she seems like a lost somnambulist, moaning softly in dreams as she paces creaking halls.
With the addition of Tashi Wada’s swathes of synth and bagpipes, there’s almost a sense of giallo film dread at times. Turn The Light On is a fragmentary kaleidoscopic nightmare; In Gardens Muteness is shivery and stripped-back, with bare bones piano.
If this all sounds hard to swallow, the purity of Holter’s voice is a beautiful contrast to the vice-like grip of the instrumentation. As with Julee Cruise before her, songs, as with nightmares cannot hurt you. It’s what inspired these dreams in the first place. Maybe lock all the doors and bolt all the windows tonight.