Live Review: Julia Holter, Andrew Tuttle

14 December 2015 | 2:32 pm | Ed Matthews

"Julia Holter possesses a contrasting depth at the heart of her work that when transmitted live can have a truly cathartic effect."

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Andrew Tuttle is an astute choice as support tonight. His channelling of banjo and guitar through an electronic laptop filter creates peacefully disconcerting drones and ambient textures. Some bleepy frequencies come express from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind and one particularly arresting combination of blitzy banjo combined with a simple heartbeat bass drum places the listener in a contemplative and comforting headspace. The performance suits the mood beautifully.

After a short break, Julia Holter accompanies her three band members onto the cosy Black Bear stage. A deep-voiced "Hey" dispels any myths that in our midst is a performer that takes herself too seriously, but what is to follow is very much the work of a serious talent. From the first strands of the shimmering Feel You, the confidence within Holter in the live setting is all too apparent. Silhouette's spectral jazzy flourishes positions itself as a lost Astral Weeks recording. Horns Surrounding Me is the best song Portishead never released, its pulsing rhythm not the only similarity to the legendary Bristolians, with Holter's voice on this and follow-up How Long? channeling Beth Gibbons in her sultry noirish prime. Comparisons don't do tonight justice however, Holter is a completely original artist witnessed in her pomp, incredible flourishes of musical ingenuity around every bend. The one-two punch of Lucette Stranded On The Island and Sea Calls Me Home somehow improve on their recorded versions, vividly recreated to absolutely stunning effect.

The awed silence in between songs is alleviated by Holter's whipsmart banter. At one stage she voices her affection towards the back-of-room chandeliers for bringing her positive vibes and then ponders Sia's song of the same name, "That's a really weird song. It's so random". After a couple more dips into some older material the playful bounce of Everytime Boots kills as its gorgeous melody gets heads nodding in appreciation. The next intro is to a "slow sad song I wrote in 2011", the title track/closer from this year's much-lauded Have You In My Wilderness, which is startlingly fragile in execution. The band performs wonders alongside her tonight, their pinpoint accompaniment via electric double bass, viola and drums a match for her recorded output's lush production. Their range is exemplified by epic closer Vasquez, and equally on stunning encore Betsy On The Roof.

Like a lot of truly great artists, Julia Holter possesses a contrasting depth at the heart of her work that when transmitted live can have a truly cathartic effect. Easily one of the gigs of this or any other year, for that matter; utterly breathtaking.

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