Thursday, September 27th, 2018

Julia Holter – I Shall Love 2

And we shall reciproc8.


[Video][Website]
[7.17]
Joshua Minsoo Kim: Nearly a decade ago, Julia Holter released an album of quotidian but surprisingly intimate field recordings, one of which was an interpretation of a score by Michael Pisaro–the greatest composer of the 21st century, and someone who Holter studied under while attending CalArts. While she has collaborated with him on his records, Holter has never recorded music that felt obviously aligned with the post-Cagean philosophy and aesthetics of the Wandelweiser collective. She has, however, elucidated the importance of Pisaro’s lessons and experimental music workshops in providing a space for “listening and focus.” Holter described her upcoming album, Aviary, as a reflection on “how one responds to [the cacophony they experience daily] as a person — how one behaves, how one looks for love, for solace.” This song accomplishes exactly that through language reminiscent of classical texts and a delivery that demands listeners to consider its utility. The song is simply prefaced: “That is all, that is all. There is nothing else.” A matter-of-fact decree that renders the following statement as irrefutable truth: “I am in love.” Appropriately, the song spends most of its runtime in a calming trance-like meditation. There’s a thoughtfulness to the arrangement — the soft bed of synth pads, the otherworldly vocoder harmony, the soothing string section — and it helps to capture the subtle flutter and comforting security of finding a partner. The song eventually swells into a beautiful wall of noise that finds the titular line transforming in meaning and tone. “In all the humans there is something true/But do the angels say, do the angels say/I shall love?” she sings. What begins as an elevation of self beyond that of celestial beings becomes a therapeutic mantra of self-assurance — not “I shall love?” but “I shall love.” I’m drawn to Holter’s music  because her compositions and voice are always conduits for intentional listening. The result is deep contemplation, an invitation for listeners to see how the material used can lead to a better understanding of the material itself, or even one’s self. More than simple platitudes, “I Shall Love 2” calls for people to truly understand that they deserve love, even if it requires constant reminding. She models how to do just that, but gives another piece of sound advice: “Who cares what people say.”
[7]

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: Julia Holter’s music often feels like it holds you at a distance, intentionally breaking from expectations and forms to artificialize its sound. On “I Shall Love 2,” she takes a simple concept — the overwhelming and universal nature of love — and treats it in a way that almost feels like an alien’s view of the concept, talking and singing through these questions and declarations of love as if it the first time she is handling them. But as the baroque-ish instrumentation of “I Shall Love 2” builds from a simple, almost-childlike ambient soundscape to a full, crashing chant of a song, Holter’s inhuman facade begins to melt away, leaving the song feeling like a personal revelation of a sort.
[7]

Kat Stevens: I’ve got a lot of admiration for Julia’s queasy strings but, with one or two exceptions, I’ve always found her songs hard to love. “I Shall Love 2” doesn’t have the immediate menace of “Horns Surrounding Me” or the feeling of stumbling around a maze where everyone is dressed as a Versailles courtier of “Feel You.” What it does conjure up is this image: a woman has escaped to a secluded forest glade for some peace and quiet, when a bird sets alight on her shoulder to tweet a little. Fine, she says. You can stay. But then a steady stream of bunnies and baby deer and pixies arrive to bother her with flowers and schmaltz until the woman finally cracks, crams her hands over her ears and tells them all to either shut up or fuck off. I sympathise, Julia, but I ain’t getting involved with your Bambi beef.
[6]

Alfred Soto: As a sonic experience, “I Shall Love 2” is a trip: a string arrangement accumulating power, cello, backup vocals shouting from a mountain peak to the heavens. I wish Julia Holter had chosen a less discreet vocal approach in the first minute, but she knows her track has surprises.
[7]

Tim de Reuse: Delightfully off-kilter, a little out of tune, unpredictable — It’s delighful to see an ocean of reverb put to use actually meshing together points of interest rather than filling space in its own right! A chant as direct like “I Shall Love” just wouldn’t have worked under a totally clean delivery; here, the finale achieves cathartic impact through the sweeping force of an awkward clutter.
[7]

Josh Love: Holter is a brilliant pop composer and it’s great to have the focus be on her music again after she bravely went public last year with the abuse she suffered while dating former Real Estate guitarist Matthew Mondanile. Admittedly, it’s hard not to hear elliptical lines like “I’m in love / What can I do…Who cares what people say?” without reflecting on Holter’s personal traumas but in the end what buoys this song are its wonderfully unorthodox orchestral melodies and the Velvet Underground-esque sense of spiritual deliverance embedded in the closing refrain, “I shall love.”
[7]

Vikram Joseph: The magical realist dreamscapes of Julia Holter’s songs are always compellingly strange. “I Shall Love 2” feels like waking up on a tropical shore, surrounded by fallen fruit and parakeets, but with the colour of the sky just odd enough to make you wonder if you might, in fact, still be dreaming. It’s a fitting space for a love song, delivered without irony or trepidation; maybe this is what it’s meant to feel like? Julia, dazed and blinded by the sun, wonders “what do the angels say?” and is answered by a celestial chorus; the song builds to a Deserter’s Songs-ish climax of swirling, entwining vocal parts, strings and brass, strands of the entire galaxy uniting in imperfect synchrony to celebrate her newfound love. I mean, sorry Julia, there’s no way this isn’t a dream.
[8]

Ramzi Awn: Listening to “I Shall Love 2” is a bit like discovering a new painting. Julia Holter pairs humor with sincerity in a dizzying arrangement that employs instruments as brushstrokes on a fresh canvas, ripe with possibility. Holter plays with the idea of voice as conductor, threading the different elements together with short, deliberate phrases and just the right timing.
[7]

Edward Okulicz: After listening to this on a loop, I really enjoy the “that is all, that is all” spoken intro as an outro before the song repeats. In fact, I might just edit the audio to make that change. Otherwise, “I Shall Love 2” is so meticulously arranged that I feel like there’s something wrong with me that it can’t hold my attention the whole of its running time, but the layering of vocals and strings — which are lovely but less involving by themselves at first — in the second half is impressive.
[6]

Ryo Miyauchi: Julia Holter’s left looking pale upon facing the song’s central epiphany, and what really pushes “I Shall Love 2” is her follow-up question: “what do I do?” It peels back how truly daunting it can be to get hit by the feeling when you least expect it, and how you’re never prepared to respond to love’s arrival. The creaking music, too, sighs and crashes on its knees as powerless as Holter. The final swirling of voices that declare her breakthrough to choose love despite its known terror, then, echoes with bravery.
[7]

Cédric Le Merrer: They sound like falling in love, these thousand voices pulling and pushing chaotically towards the same direction. The stomach dwelling butterflies. The social pressure of a million amatonormative songs and films and friends. Your feelings going so much faster than your thoughts. Your will drowned out. Your self tractor beamed like a cow by a flying saucer.
[8]

Rebecca A. Gowns: One layer isn’t enough, but as the song builds, it becomes more and more satisfying, like piling on thin sheets of butter and baking it until it becomes a croissant. What seems thin and threadbare at the beginning becomes transcendent. (Again, like a fresh croissant.)
[9]

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