Holly Herndon Releases Sophomore Album “Platform”
By Taylor Jordan
Vocal manipulation. Rhythmic Glitches. Deep drum kicks. Swirling and Stuttering atmospheres. Staccato synth-stabs. Syncopated, disjointed bass lines. These are some of the signature sounds that hit you in the face from the opening track “Interference” off Holy Herndon’s stimulating new LP, “Platform.”
While she never allows the listener to relax over the course of the record, Herndon forces the listener to accept the reality in which she operates: scattered, heady, deep sounds, so perfectly picked and placed that it rivals a chess master’s decision making.
Teasing her audience with anticipation much like her avant-garde contemporaries do (e.g. Oneohtrix Point Never), Herndon often gives in and allows the once random-sounding noises to perfectly align, leading to monumental drops that rival some of the deepest electronic breakdowns heard today.
Herndon’s domineering style of edging her audience is wildly evident in the track “Chorus,” where scattered vocal remnants first set the backdrop. Seemingly random drums never seem to be placed where you’d expect. Until they do. And your life suddenly feels like it all makes sense, operating with precise accuracy and you feel invincible. But only for that instant. Herndon doesn’t let you dwell on that euphoria for too long. She quickly pulls the rug out from under you by devolving back to scattered vocal glitches and syncopated drum lines, almost like she feels more at home there, in the chaos of sound collage.
On her sophomore album, released on 4AD, Herndon employs all of the techniques that worked so well for her on first album, “Movement.” Yet something is different. She is a different person, perhaps more seemingly confident in her skin, her place within her own arrangements. On “Morning Sun,” (which by the way, premiered with a lovey space-based video) Herndon sings throughout the entire song, surrounded by vocal manipulations that flutter around creating an unearthly atmosphere. Unlike other artists who use heavy vocal manipulation, Herndon never hides behind production techniques to offset her talents. She masterfully uses technology as her primary yet seemingly complimentary instrument. Skillfully crafting melodies and rhythms out of her voice, Herndon’s strength is her elegant touch over sound manipulation. When listening to “Morning Sun,” few instruments are prevalent. Sparse drums and an abundance of different vocal arrangements are all she needs to fill the soundscape. Her soaring voice rises above the staccato voice rhythms, proving that she is in fact not just a sophisticated computer program, but in fact human.
Perhaps most impressive is Herndon’s ability to compose avant-garde/glitch/ sound-collage songs within the confines of pop song structures. She employs textures that are often heard in 20-minute ambient compositions, vocal ramblings that resemble noise-collages, rhythmic lines that rival deep electronic breakdowns, and vocal melodies that hit home more than most hits on top pop charts.
Holy Herndon is a well-greased machine, an electromechanical humanoid operating within the confines of the human sound spectrum.