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New Music: Holly Herndon

By Jason Herring, May 28 2015 —

Glitchy electronic soundscapes, fragmented vocalizations and bizarre sound collages define Holly Herndon’s latest album Platform. The San Fransisco-based composer’s sonic experimentations are original and compelling, but too indulgent at times for most listeners to enjoy.

Platform finds Herndon building on the largely conventional electronic sound of her debut. While her first album had hints of the anxious voice-centred electronica she’s creating now, it failed to find a solid identity. ENT_HollyHerndon

Even though Platform doesn’t settle on a uniform sound, it establishes Herndon as a daring artist who isn’t afraid of taking risks.

This is made clear from one of the record’s first tracks, “Chorus,” which blends Herndon’s augmented voice with unusual samples over a bass-heavy beat. On the track, her experimental tendencies create a captivating song with a catchy melody.

Another track where Herndon successfully pulls off her unorthodox style is “Home.” The song explores the fear of the dissolution of privacy online, building a paranoid atmosphere through a minimalist backdrop and an arresting vocal performance. This is Herndon at her best.

Unfortunately, Herndon’s experiments don’t always click. An example of this is album closer “New Ways to Love,” a song whose dissonant instrumentation and jumbled rhythm make for an unsatisfying end to the record.

The most unusual track on the album is “Lonely at the Top,” a spoken-word piece that explores the phenomenon of ASMR — a physical pleasure some people experience while listening to relaxing sounds. While the track showcases an interesting idea that’s well executed, it breaks up the flow of the album and will likely polarize listeners.

The best part of the album is how nuanced it is. Herndon’s densely packed electronics are filled with subtleties, making Platform a rewarding album to unfold with repeated listens.

Holly Herndon creates challenging experimentations that reward listeners willing to unpack the intricacies of the record. But if you’re looking for a heavy electronic record to bump at parties, Platform isn’t for you.

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