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Julia Holter announced her art-house credentials on her fine 2012 album Ekstasy with a song inspired by the famously puzzling French film Last Year at Marienbad.
The LA singer-songwriter’s new album takes a less opaque film as reference point – Gigi, the 1958 romantic musical comedy – but uses an even more enigmatic brand of songcraft in order to explore it.
Opening not with a musical intro but the sound of Holter singing, so as to plunge us straight into the action, the album creates a series of scenarios like a set of Cindy Sherman photographs – Holter as a woman being chased in “Horns Surrounding Me”, or recreating a scene from Gigi in which a woman enters a high-society restaurant in “Maxim’s I and II”.
The songs flow together as a dream-like mix of chamber-pop, ambient music, jazzy musical theatre and musique concrete while Holter varies her vocals from mysterious whispers to accented jauntiness.
The concepts at times float out of grasp like a will o’ the wisp, but the ambitiousness more often reaps rewards.
Loud City Song