Experimental composer Julia Holter will release Aviary, her full-length follow-up to 2015’s Have You In My Wilderness, later this month. She released the lead single, an intoxicating tapestry called “I Shall Love 2,” in September. Today she’s shared the second, “Words I Heard.”
Like Aviary as a whole, “Words I Heard” was inspired by the writing of Lebanese-American artist Etel Adnan, specifically this quote:
Tall trees of so many kinds, from redwoods to manzanitas, oaks, madrones, maples and elms, plants and bushes, flowers and seeds, acorns and grass, they all are the last chance of the earth and they all make a thick and permanent coat, a cover, a bath of perfume, a touch of healing, a royal procession, music and fanfare, they rise and talk to Tamalpais, and sing lullabies and songs of love. – Journey to Mount Tamalpais
The track is rich and molasses-slow, with pained vocals smeared over delicate strings. Holter’s voice and the strings dissolve into the song’s atmosphere, but her cry of “save our souls and our laughter” periodically shatters the glass. It might seem trite to link such abstract music to politics, but when watching the forest-set video, it’s hard hear the eerie, apocalyptic song apart from the recent news about the speed and irreversibility with which we’re destroying the kind of scenes that Adnan wrote about. The last minute of the song grows into tense, cinematic discord adding clashing piano, until it all softly fades out.
A press release explains that the song references Dante’s Inferno’s concept of “the City of Man,” which “can be thought of as a radical representation of the world in which we live, stripped of all temporizing and all hope.” What Holter has said of Aviary resonates with the way the the song seems to fiercely mourn the present, but train it’s gaze on the future:
I think this album is reflecting that feeling of cacophony and how one responds to it as a person – how one behaves, how one looks for love, for solace. Maybe it’s a matter of listening to and gathering the seeming madness, of forming something out of it and envisioning a future.
Directed by Dicky Bahto, also responsible for the “I Shall Love 2″ visuals, the video lovingly captures a forest in grainy haze. It pans slowly over leaves, branches, rocks and ferns, often flipping the camera upwards or spinning it around, mimicking the view of lying on your back on looking up at the light-stippled forest roof, or that of a child clumsily pirouetting.
Watch and listen below.
Aviary is out 10/26 via Domino. Pre-order it here.