Have You In My Wilderness
Reviewed by: Ziggy Merritt
Julia Holter’s collective career has consisted of many highs and few lows. Her sophomore release of Ekstasis proved that the recording studio can be eschewed in favor of the familiarity and comfort of the bedroom without sacrificing much in the process. After moving to Domino Records, Holter has brought the bedroom with her in a sense. Her style and intimate voice has remained intact through it all. The latest release of Have You In My Wilderness has Holter exploring some of that same familiar territory as she experiments further from the limited scope of the bedroom pop genre.
Wilderness feels very much like something that was produced decades ago, sometimes centuries, as elements of jazz and classical string instrumentation intermingle with more subtle touches of harpsichord and piano. It’s layered to be something orchestral, if overwhelmingly so at times. Often, Holter’s music has a lot going on, yet as a testament to her artistry it turns into something intelligible and pure by the end.
The first few notes of the harpsichord in the opener, “Feel You”, hook you in right away as her voice joins in the next few measures. There’s a confidence and succinctness to her delivery. Every syllable is clearly accentuated and intimate, something that does well to highlight the importance of her lyrics next to the instrumentation. Elements of lovers long gone flitter throughout the lyrics present throughout this track and the rest of the album. It’s an album of stories, each of which is beautifully represented by the multi-layered string instrumentals packed into every fiber of Wilderness’ existence. “How Long” and “Sea Calls Me Home” represent this better than the rest with the latter including the brief touch of a silky smooth sax solo alongside the refrain of the harpsichord. The cool jazz groove of “Vasquez” is one of the few times in Wilderness where things are stripped down, yet even this shines just as brilliantly as anything that precedes it.
Gorgeous as this album might be, Holter’s sole bane comes through in the occasionally brash and excessive orchestra of strings, something that often overwhelms on tracks such as “Night Song” and “Betsy on the Roof.” But these represent only the weakest of what may be her strongest release to date.