Published May 24, 2012Julia Holter's Ekstasis is one dense record. Her angelic vocals are layered, echoed, mirrored and then melded into a wall of atmospheric bliss. Needless to say, a live setting for such a produced and elusive record doesn't always translate, especially if the goal is to make the live show sound as close to the record as possible.
Well, rather than try and perfectly replicate the majestic Ekstasis, Holter went for a stripped-down version for her debut live performance in Vancouver. Backed by a cellist and drummer, Holter, herself parked in front an expensive-looking synthesizer, slowly pieced together a magnificent set that never strayed far from the originals while still pouring new life and texture into them.
The sparse yet completely focused crowd at the Media Club was immediately drawn into the divine sound-worlds that Holter and her cohorts unfurled. Holter used looping ambient backdrops and constantly switched her keyboard's tone, all while the cellist sawed and yawned and her drummer laid out mostly delicate, sparse and precise percussion.
Songs like the "Marienbad," "Fur Felix" and "Moni Mon Amie" lilted and floated into the ears of the captivated audience. Perhaps the most invigorating song of the night belonged to their rendition of "Try to Make Yourself a Work of Art," taken from her debut release, Tragedy. Featuring clattering percussion, horror-soundtrack-like cello and Holter's emotive and wrought vocals, the track became pure menace in the middle of a set that bordered on heavenly.
Of course, fan favourite "Goddess Eyes," which was issued on her debut and redone twice on Ekstasis, made an appearance, though this version was much more drawn out, and Holter's vocals were far more powerful and emotional than any of the recorded versions. Looking right through the crowd, her mind went back to wherever it was that inspired the song as she forced out the emotional lyrics.
With one of 2012's most well-received records already under her belt, Julia Holter's live show is certainly ranking up there with one of the best live performances of the year, as well.