photos by David Andrako, words by Andrew Sacher
Daniel Wohl, Laurel Halo, and Julia Holter
"So you were there in a car and the windshield shattered," are the first words you heard at Laurel Halo and Julia Holter's collaborative set with electroacoustic composer Daniel Wohl and his TRANSIT orchestra at the Merkin Concert Hall on Saturday night (2/23), as part of the ongoing indie-classical Ecstatic Music Festival. The line was quietly sung by Laurel, only to be sung by Julia the second time around, and finally for a third "verse," the two singers harmonized in unison, and their voices sound great together. The lyric was sung during a piece titled "Enter the Void," the first of three original pieces composed by Laurel, Julia, and Daniel played during the first set of Saturday's concert. The setup primarily featured Laurel and Daniel on electronics, as Daniel led his orchestra, and Laurel and Julia on vocals. All three musicians also had keyboards.
The pieces were heavy on vibes, never fully committing to drone, ambient IDM, modern classical or avant-garde, but pulling characteristics from all of those things to create drifting, floating atmospheres that were entirely their own. Vocally, the deliveries were bold and kind of the one thing that kept you grounded on earth. Both Julia and Laurel sang in similar styles to their respective 2012 albums, Ekstasis and Quarantine, restoring a sense of familiarity each time they chimed in over the electronics and orchestra swells' ability to emerge the listener into the unknown. One of the pieces was written on the setlist as "Corps Remix," and presumably has its roots in Laurel Halo's remix of Daniel Wohl's "323," from his Corps Exquis project (who Laurel once shared a bill with in Brooklyn).
After leaving the stage for a short intermission, the musicians returned for a second set, which featured three songs performed as one continuous piece. It began with Julia literally whispering spoken word into the mic and Laurel eventually joining her on contrasting parts. The whispering was followed by some sparse moments of singing into more depths of weirdness. But as a finale to the medley, they brought everything back home with a cover of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David-penned tune, Don't Make Me Over," ending with Julia and Laurel powerfully chanted in unison, "Accept me for who I am, accept me for the things that I do."
An archived recording of the show will eventually be available at WQXR. More pictures (including one of the setlist) below...