There are so many vocal layers in Julia Holter’s madrigal ‘Marienbad’, from her third album Ekstasis – and first for New York’s RVNG INTL – that it’s hard to decipher exactly what she’s singing about. Odd snatches from the first few lines seem to set the song in a garden of sentient statues wondering “why they’re so still”, before Holter’s voice splits into dazzling fractals and any concrete sense of meaning is lost. To add insult to injury of those stationary stone people, ‘Marienbad’ then spirals off like a sycamore seed, gathering up gossamer harpsichord, celestial vocal fanfares and gentle bass on its journey. Built around a structure that seems to self-animate, it darts between drones and cuckoo clock mechanism rhythm and glistens with an infinite sense of wonder.
Tragedy was one of 2011’s finest records. On the basis of this absolutely extraordinary song, Ekstasis could well be a 2012 standout too.