September 18th, 2015 | Album reviews

Have You In My Wilderness

The title of Julia Holter’s latest release on Domino strikes with an immediate, mid-sentence intimacy, a present tense ownership of both person and nature. It’s not surprising, then, that an album of such nomenclature would feature its creator in graceful control as a central, spotlighted storyteller. In the foreground, Holter’s measured narrative voice spins stories of marooned Ariadne figures and the proper way to ask for a cigarette, delivered with her characteristic wide-eyed clarity. Meanwhile, pastel background vocal brush strokes engage an array of classical instruments in evocative interplay, creating a cinematic and emotionally complex experience. The bright baroque tinkles of a harpsichord, a somber double bass (both plucked and bowed), and fluttering violins swirl around, and though these instruments represent humanity’s cultural distance from the wilderness, the resulting sound evokes natural, organic images—lush aural thickets and swirling, climactic maelstroms. When Holter chooses to loosen the reins on her voice and howl at the moon a bit, as she does on the sublime and bittersweet “Betsy on the Roof”, the result is particularly thrilling. The melancholic sentiments behind the title track and “How Long?” are not undermined but rather underscored by its more sun-dappled moments on tracks like “Feel You” and “Everytime Boots”; as in life, perceived moments of joy and sorrow naturally complement one another, and the results are supernatural.

—Christina Gubala