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julia holter - Ekstasis (Domino Records Edition)
*Domino Reissue* How do you follow a near-perfect album? By edging even closer to perfection. Julia Holter hasn't allowed herself to be cowed by the success of her acclaimed 2011 album Tragedy, instead producing another pellucid, beautifully composed and sequenced LP for head and heart. On Ekstasis, her first album for New York's RVNG Intl., Holter's vocals are given a central role throughout. The arrangements are more open and "pop" than those of Tragedy, but not at the expense of musical complexity or eccentricity. By now you'll probably have heard lead single, 'Marienbad', an astonishing amalgam of tempered baroque instrumentation and spritely vocal layering, in which Holter comes over like Julianna Barwick's mischievous older sister, running amok in a pastel-hued psychedelic Wonderland. Like album highlight 'Boy In The Moon', it's a song that takes conventional pop forms and structures them unconventionally. Tragedy's rousing highlight ''Goddess Eyes' appears here in a re-recorded version, and there's also a sequel, 'Goddess Eyes II', delivered with an exotic pomp that suggests Kate Bush collaborating with Ryuichi Sakamoto. 'Fur Felix' is like Brecht by way of J-pop, and parting shot 'This Is Esktasis' is inspired - all stomping Glitter-beat, languid horns and arcing strings, pointing towards even greater things to come from Holter in the future. Even the seemingly more straightforward numbers - like 'Our Sorrows', or 'In The Same Room', which sounds like the work of an Italians Do It Better band with a degree in medieval studies - crackle with personality and idiosyncratic compositional touches. It takes an artist of rare stature to create a record at once as accessible and exploratory as Ekstasis, and Holter is just such an artist. A truly wonderful record.