Smile Politely

Holter’s big year comes to C-U

Calling 2012 a big year for Julia Holter might be an understatement. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s happened to the singer-songwriter so far this year:

  • A week before her new album came out (March 2), NPR Music selected it as one of three albums to be streamed on their website as a “First Listen.”
  • When her album, Ekstasis, was released, Pitchfork gave it the prestigious “Best New Music” tag, rating it an 8.6 overall. Glowing reviews of the album didn’t stop there, however; NME, BBC and Beats Per Minute each raved about the album, helping Ekstasis score an 83 metascore on
  • On May 26, Holter began a 30-date European tour in Utrecht, Netherlands. Her tour spanned 16 countries and kept her abroad until July 7.
  • After a month off, Holter hit the road again, this time in North America. She opened for Sigur Rós for a few dates, then began a new tour with Hundred Waters.

Clearly, big is not the right word for the year Holter is having. It’s huge; it’s the kind of year most musicians dream of having, and it just so happens to run through Champaign-Urbana. As Holter winds down her hectic tour schedule, she will make a late night appearance at Channing-Murray for the Pygmalion Music Festival, giving the C-U area a hefty dose of her genre-defying electronic music. Immediately following Best Coast’s performance down the street at Canopy Club, Holter will provide music fans with a rich electronic lullaby, closing out day two of the festival with quiet elegance.

Holter’s music lives on the line between classical and pop, with feet firmly in both camps. She builds deliberate layers of sound, with droning synths and soft beats, creating a very atmospheric sound. Her voice drones and loops on Ekstasis, creating a chant-like aural effect that feels like it is surrounding you.

Ekstasis performed live is a different beast than the recording (based on this NPR recording above), but it is no less enchanting. Holter’s voice seems prettier and livelier when removed from the loopy experimentation.

When everything comes together in Holter’s live show it is absolutely charming. There really may be no better way to end the night at Pygmalion than with a little of Holter and Ekstasis.

Holter plays at 2:00 a.m. at Channing-Murray on Friday night (or Saturday morning), September 29. Hundred Waters will open for Holter at 1:00 a.m.

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