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Julia Holter – Something in the Room She Moves (Domino Recording Co Ltd)

Overwhelmed by chaotic memories of the past and fascinated by the Middle Ages’ view of the end of the world, art-pop composer Julia Holter didn’t leave room in her cognitive palette for the here and now on the experimental frenzy that was 2018’s Aviary. A creative intermission caused by COVID-19 and the birth of her daughter with fellow musical collaborator Tashi Wada caused the 39-year-old American to rethink her mindset. Beginning with the album title of her sixth record Something in the Room She Moves, it being in a present-continuous prose, Holter’s album embraces the present day. Instead of dabbling in highbrow literature and history books likely borrowed from her historian parents, Holter became inspired simply by the environment around her when writing the lyrics and choosing the apt production methods.

‘Sun Girl’ and ‘Evening Mood’ both use field recordings within their compositions to capture the current moment. The former opens Something in the Room She Moves with a disjointed tapestry of fidgety sounds. The song’s Sun Girl protagonist could perhaps refer to Julia Holter’s daughter entertaining herself in a playground as the sun highlights her in a golden halo. A child impulsively interacting with toys; bashing wooden blocks together, dropping marbles and triggering a music box. Furthermore you can actually hear a child express surprise. A piccolo and a dreamy M83-aura synthesizer add to a vision of a sunny outdoor habitat. Holter soothingly sings like it’s a nursery rhyme.

Evening Mood’ also paints a dreamy environment. Holter opens the track with the clinking of wine glasses and features the heart-pumping of an ultrasound as the mother whispers perhaps to her child: “Thinking how could I wrap my arms all around my face. My face, my girl, my girl.” The song has a subterranean liquid-like flow to its form, which Holter has admitted takes inspiration from the Studio Ghibli film Ponyo. This calming fluidity is also felt on the gorgeous sax-filled ‘These Morning’ where she confronts her previous occupation with the past: “I don’t even do a thing to think about retrieving what drifted away from me” and the title-track ‘Something in the Room She Moves’ where the Los Angeles resident adopts an Indian flavoured tone her voice.

This otherworldly feeling could also be felt on the mysterious acapella ‘Meyou’, in which Holter sounds like Lisa Gerrard performing the Gladiator soundtrack before her voice becomes multiplied, croaked and well, chilling. It’s a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on Björk’s unsettling acapella album Medúlla. Furthermore, along with the ecclesiastical ‘Talking to the Whisper’ – which concludes with suffocating free-jazz madness – ‘Meyou’ could have featured on Julia Holter’s previous challenging listen Aviary.

The titles of ‘Something in the Room She Moves’, ‘These Morning’ and ‘Talking to the Whisper’  are grammatically and orthographically incorrect, perhaps suggesting that Julia Holter is letting go of her meticulous nature (the album’s title supposedly coming from her subconscious mind when naming the audio file) and letting her instinctive freedom take over. Adventurous electronic jazz song ‘Spinning’ celebrates a free-spirited enjoyment of observing love and song-writing taking shape. Documenting various adrenalin-rush sensations as a curious spectator: “Some cologne leaving me blind, the laugh is in the eyes / Swoop in to fill my arms / What is delicious? And what is omniscient? And what is the circular magic I’m visiting?” Much of the song is incomprehensible such as the line “What is the opposite love in becoming fish? However that’s probably the point. An interpretive reflection of the giddy dizziness that one might feel when enjoying life’s unpredictable now.


God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.