NPR logo Review: Holly Herndon, 'Platform'

Review: Holly Herndon, 'Platform'

Holly Herndon

Holly Herndon Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Holly Herndon works in a post-human mode that's become customary in electronic music, yet remains abstract in realms beyond. Voices figure heavily in Platform, her follow-up to a breakthrough album in 2012, but they're spliced, diced, dissected — too processed, in any case, to suggest origins in a fleshy human being with dynamic feelings and moods.

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That doesn't mean dynamism is absent, though. From the start, Platform draws drama out of changes in speed and texture and many little parts that work together to make a sort of musical machine. Not music by a machine or for a machine ­— it's music as a machine itself, with working orders and operating procedures that make for different kinds of effects. Some of those effects prove surprisingly human in the end.

"Interference" opens with a stuttering, strobing display of many of the techno-minded sounds enlisted throughout; the track has a gentle sense of propulsion suited less for a dance club than a movie scene in which a forlorn protagonist drives down a highway at night. "Chorus" is more rhythmically fitful, with slow, foreboding parts that launch into fleet beats for brief spells at a time. "Unequal" swerves from there, its operatic voices sounding more like avant-garde classical music than anything else.

"Morning Sun" marks another in a series of drastic changes, with a bright rising call to action ("wake up, wake up," it whispers repeatedly) before "Locker Leak" presents more voices declaiming loud and clear. What they're declaiming is hard to discern, exactly — among the utterances: "Who lasts? Glass lasts" and "Be the first of your friends to like Greek yogurt this summer" — but the effect is one of an alien life force trying to figure out how to emulate a state of personhood, like Scarlett Johansson's character in Under The Skin. By the end of Platform, it proves convincing enough to cast Herndon as a musician with more to say than her abstraction suggests at the start.

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Platform

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Album
Platform
Artist
Holly Herndon
Label
4AD
Released
2015

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