Last year, NNA Tapes released a collection of songs by Julia Holter. The cassette arrived at my door early this year, after what seemed like an age. I was incredibly eager to hear it, as what I had already discovered of Holter’s music leant itself to the nature of tape incredibly well. ‘Try to make yourselves a work of art’ and ‘The Falling Age’ are hazy, detached, cyclical pieces of music that astounded me on first listen. I followed up hearing these by indulging in what I could find of hers that still remained to be heard. Thankfully, she is an incredibly prolific artist, and there is a lot she has to offer on different compilations, drone videos, and an album of field recordings, the latter of which I am yet to have had the pleasure of hearing.
Julia Holter comes across not only as a musician, a composer and a performer. She is at the same time performance artist and sound collagist. The title of the album is in quotations, not merely telling you what you are listening to, but the nature of it. Like Bowie’s “Heroes” the title is to be read with a degree of irony. It defies the assumption that you are hearing a fully blown concert. Yes, these songs are played live, but you are never sure where. Perhaps some of them are at a venue of some kind. But others appear to be nowhere you would assume a live recording to take place. A lot of the time it sounds like her front room, with a film casually playing off the TV in the background. Incidentally, the dialogue and soundtrack of said film has its moments of complementing and then aggravating the performance in a strange, mesmerising way. The music becomes a dense fog, the lyrics are impenetrable, and as a result, all the more intriguing. There is something in the quality I can identify with, the act of just grabbing a ghetto blaster with a tape record function, and just setting off. Song titles such as “Me more than I need” seem to contain a playfulness and spontaneity that almost undermines these fully realised compositions. The execution always seems to have an urgency, ‘I must record this right now’.