Holly Herndon – Platform
Herndon's geeky love of musical gadgetry and playful experimentation are all on show here
A few facts on the marmalade-haired electronic-whizz that is Holly Herndon. She’s currently studying as a doctoral candidate at Stanford’s Centre for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). She was born in Tennessee, but spent her formative years in Berlin’s minimal techno scene, before upping sticks and moving to San Francisco. She recently contributed a piece of sound art to a Chicago art gallery show about using the human voice as an instrument.
All these things start making better sense on hearing this, her third album, after 2011’s Car and 2012’s Movement. The geeky love of musical gadgetry, the playful experimentation with songwriting, the throbby, machine-made beats, the voice manipulation, the hippy nods to self-help culture, it’s all in there, and things start adding up when you know where Herndon has been, and where she is now. A bit like Heatsick’s dancefloor-friendly, but cerebrally satisfying – but strictly only if you want them to be – tropical-house beats (he too cites Berlin’s club and art scenes as a big influence), Herndon seems fascinated by the spaces in dance music for, well dancing, thankfully, but also exploration and discovery.
In ‘Lonely at the Top’, a voice (Berlin Community Radio’s ASMR or ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ ambassador Claire Tolan) coos words of new-agey encouragement to a stressed-out receiver of a massage, blurred with sounds of laptop typing and running water. ‘New Ways to Love’ is a spacey, polyphonic experiment in song; ‘Morning Sun’ sounds like the celestial vibes of This Mortal Coil, given a glitchy, short-circuity twist and ‘Interference’ is a stuttery pop song, juddering and spasming through waves of interference.
Platform’s not one to sing along to, for sure (not without some very fancy software anyway), but it’s definitely full of new ways to love the ever-fascinating Herndon.
Platform is out on 4AD on Mon 18 May