Julia Holter + Søren Juul @ The Glee Club, Birmingham, 11th November 2015

Julia Holter for 9_7_15 ann (by Tonje Thilesen)

Julia Holter seems slightly unsure of herself upon pondering as to whether her touring schedule has previously led her to Birmingham. Holter’s tentative address confirms that she believes it to be her first visit to the city, and she is correct, no doubt, much to the dismay of the some of the contingent that have secured themselves a spot close to the stage ahead of tonight’s Birmingham début.

Accompanying Holter on this tour is the Danish musician Søren Juul, also known to go by the name of Indians. Both of Juul’s incarnations have released music under the umbrella of excellence that is 4AD music. More recently, recording under the former, Juul has recently released an EP called ‘Ambitions’, with the promise of an album to follow in 2016.

Juul arrives to the stage alone and takes up his position behind a keyboard which is primed with a plethora of hushed tones, that mould together to create the accompaniment to Juul’s calming vocal. The question as to whether Birmingham has been privy to tonight’s performers before, is topic with which Juul also grapples. He states that he believes that he may have played here before, as support to 4AD label mates, Daughter. Unlike Holter, Juul is just slightly off the mark. His previous visit to the region actually took him to Wolverhampton, but close enough, nonetheless.

Juul resides behind his instrument of choice and wields it like he’s at the helm of some other worldly craft. Each tweak here, and slight adjustment there, builds upon the sonic renderings which hold the Birmingham audience attentive throughout. Juul further charms the crowd with his amusing tale which references the details behind him finding a home with 4AD. After uploading a song to YouTube, he was contacted out of the blue by 4AD, who offered to make a record with him. The only problem was that Juul had only the one song. Quite a problem, but 4AD could see the promise and coaxed him into quitting his day job in favour of writing his first album. Juul recalls how at the time he had just had his heart broken by a girl and so this proved ample inspiration for his songwriting. With reference to his new album – expected in 2016 – Juul lets it be known that he has once again had his heart broken by another girl, and so hence the new album.

Julia Holter is currently riding on a wave of critical acclaim that has surrounded her latest album release ‘Have You In My Wilderness’. This latest collection of material could be considered to be Holter’s most accessible in terms of the popular canon. In contrast to Holter’s previous three albums, ‘Have You In My Wilderness’ focuses its attention firmly on the vocal melodies and lyrical content.

After having made the briefest of appearances on stage, Holter dashes to the back of the stage to retrieve some forgotten item, this leaves her band with a chasm of “dead air” to fill. Step forward Corey Fogel, who seizes upon the silence and introduces himself as Julia Holter. By the time the audiences chuckles begin to peter out, Holter is once again front and centre, ready to commence with the show.

In addition to Fogel on the drums, Holter’s band extends to Deanna Maccabe on violin and backing vocals duties, whilst Devin Hoff grapples with the double bass. Holter herself, resides behind the keyboard, a place where she orchestrates proceedings throughout the evening. The arrangements are relatively simple, certainly as a consequence of the size of this tour, nonetheless, it offers the audience the opportunity to experience Holter’s compositions in such an organic state. The new album dominates the agenda and ‘Betsy On The Roof’; ‘Feel You’ and ‘Sea Calls Me Home’ are delivered by a band firmly in a unison that can only come through touring. Although the length of the set is somewhat short by most standards, at least we can all console ourselves with the fact that Holter certainly delivers quality over quantity.

Review: Chris Curtis

Photograph by Tonje Thilesen courtesy of Glee PR

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