Julia Holter is a 27-year-old classical composer for the modern age — that is to say, with a pop sensibility. Her ethereal music appeals to the nerd in all of us, from the musicality, which includes dissonance that is, at times, evocative of Stravinsky, to the intertextuality at play that adds dimensions beyond the song’s aural elements. Tragedy, the aptly named debut album Holter released late in 2011, is structurally based on Hippolytus, a Greek play by Euripedes, and “Marienbad,” the first single off of Ekstasis, her just-released sophomore effort, is a nod to the highly acclaimed experimental French film dating back to 1961, Last Year with Marienbad. No wonder her songs often sound like they’re coming from a different era.

And yet, despite her traditional background, Holter is able to cloak her training in more contemporary garments, while maintaining an avant-garde ethos that sets her sound apart from the sea of synth pop floating around these days. Between the two records, the latter is decidedly more accessible, if only because she has included more radio-friendly songs (including “Marienbad” and my favorite, “In the Same Room”). Still, the complex vocals, whose multi-layered parts are all sung by Holter herself, are often evocative of the kinds of pieces meant to be performed in church, and, to me, that’s precisely what makes them so engaging. Whatever the case, Julia Holter is writing some of the most exquisitely beautiful songs this side of the millennium. See her perform them at the Rickshaw Stop on Sunday, April 29.

In the meantime, check out the official video for “Moni Mon Amie,” which was directed by Yelena Zhelezov, below.

Julia Holter, Jib Kidder, William Winant Percussion Group
Rickshaw Stop
April 29, 2012
8pm, $12