Published Aug 29, 2013Critical acclaim for Julia Holter's newly released third LP, Loud City Song, is reaching a crescendo. Maintaining Holter's proclivity for intertextuality, it adapts '50s musical Gigi with the tools of jazz and ambient music — an elegantly alluring curio that's among the year's best. But the process that led to it, she feels, isn't necessarily unique.
"I think I do what most people do," Holter tells Exclaim!, before describing her process. "People don't make [art] out of nothing. I don't think it's like, 'Oh I made this beautiful thing and it's all about my life.' From the tradition of folk music to high art to Shakespeare, you find things and you love them and they're so beautiful that you want to make something with them. You borrow some things, and that's what's compelling. What's compelling to me isn't that I broke up with my boyfriend."
While Loud City Song's repeated allusions to "hats" and the "flavour to the sound of walking" remain cryptic, Holter gladly illuminates themes of city life and celebrity worship.
"The main thing, I guess, is the loudness," she says, rolling the word across her tongue. "Which I'm interested in: the loudness. For instance, 'Horns Surrounding Me' is about someone being chased by paparazzi. It's like, 'How do I connect the things in [Gigi] to today?' There's always some element of worship, in all societies, I think; in our case, it's celebrity worship. And today, it's very extreme. We have the internet with us everywhere.
"What interests me about paparazzi is the crazy dynamic. This is what 'Horns Surrounding Me' is. When I've seen it happen, it's crazy. It's like they're attacking someone. They chase people. And when you're around when it's happening, you feel like you're being chased. I was in a light bulb store once, and this blonde woman — I don't know who she was — was being followed. And it was so crazy! It's so militant and scary."
Holter connects these unreal moments to her mystical creative process: "Things like [the paparazzi swarm], which happen suddenly, might inspire some poetic thing inside me. I'll see it in my mind. I have these instant visions, and I follow them. For me, the poetic decisions tend to be calculated, and the musical decisions inspired by the poetic decisions are free."
In a musical sense, meanwhile, Holter believes that her education in classical composition and subsequent emancipation from it help realize her boundless ideas.
"My interest in atmospheric sounds that seem crazy and random is a conscious interest in the environment," she says. "I'm doing what I want and I feel very free, whereas I used to overthink everything. And somehow, on Loud City Song, it all ties together. You have to let the magic happen. There has to be this mystery and magic, and your imagination just creates. And you kind of see how sometimes, rational things come out of this magic. It's kind of blending the mind with the mystery and trying to create something."
Loud City Song is out now on Domino. As previously reported, Holter will take the album to North America next month for a short string of dates. These include a Vancouver show on September 16.
Also read Exclaim!'s full interiew with Holter here and watch her recent Exclaim! TV performance below.