“Are you listening to elevator music again?” is frequent deriding response from my flatmates (and if I’m honest probably 99% of the population) to the one of the most unloved musical genres – drone and ambient. I guess one man’s profoundly beautiful is another’s homeopathic relaxation tape. So I should tentatively warn the following may only be interest to that remaining 1%. 2011 was an especially great year for those inclined to this niche, with fantastic releases from: Tim Hecker, Laurel Halo, A Winged Victory For The Sullen, The Caretaker and Nicholas Jaar to name only a few.
One artist deserving of particular mention is Julia Holter. Her debut album Tragedy suffered from an unfortunate release date in the midst of end of year listomania. Even so Holter has received the kind of muted praise and composed hype perfectly suited to its subdued genre, gaining accolades from nerdy electronic sources such as FACT Magazine and Boomkat.
. To make matters worse it is best consumed in one sitting. That might sound a tad off-putting but despite all its clever-cloggs pretences, it is quite an affecting piece of work. Julia’s ethereal vocals narrate the tale with an untouched clarity that is something of a rarity amongst her contemporaries. As the tragedy unfolds, its blissful almost classical arrangements are threatened by the doom and dread of disquieting tape hiss and droning bass. It’s powerful stuff to say the least. Her second album, Ekstasis, due to be released in March has her delving further into more accessible art-pop territory, which is sure to be a hit – in the loosest possible sense of the word.By Adam Bychawski