Live albums act as a recorded document of what makes an artist essential to witness in person. For Fugazi, it was to capture their frenetic intensity; for The Doors, Jim Morrison’s poetic theatricality.
For Julia Holter, on In the Same Room, it’s to highlight her, and her classically trained band’s, virtuosic technique and their ability to adapt Holter’s dense musical compositions for the stage. The record mainly takes songs from the LA artist’s two most recent studio albums, Have You In My Wilderness and Loud City Song, and reimagines them.
Her poppier material, such as the sunny ‘Feel You’, is juxtaposed next to her more experimental arrangements, like ‘Betsy on the Roof’ and ‘So Lillies’, to create a set which perfectly exemplifies Holter’s baroque-pop.
Holter is more a creator of cinematic soundscapes than straightforward tunes, using intricate production details, whirring electronic drones and sound effects to achieve this. When these songs are played from night to night on tour, they undergo a change not only in how they sound but in how they feel.
The collection’s high point comes at the outset through the Loud City Song cut ‘Horns Surrounding Me’. On record, the song begins with the heavy breathing of a chase, immediately creating a frantic atmosphere.
Live, the musicians use their considerable talent to evoke a similar uneasiness but without the marching synth of the studio recording. Instead, Holter’s mesmeric voice carries the track forward in a kind of fever dream.
The record may not represent the visceral physicality of seeing your favourite artist at a live venue, but Julia Holter, her band and her music do not necessarily provoke dancing or jumping around.
Instead, this album is a pristine take of performers in their natural environment. In the Same Room is another live document worth having.