In a recent interview with the British magazine FACT, Holly Herndon refuted the trope that electronic music is the stuff of impersonal and inhuman androids. The Tennessee native bought into that narrative herself while living in the electronic hub of Berlin, where, though she played with a band named Electrocute, she began taking contrabass lessons. Her hope was that if she could master a "real instrument," she might, one day, be taken seriously as a composer.
When Holly Herndon dropped the astounding “Fade” late last year as a streaming track in advance of her second album Movement, it was a bit of a ruse. Here was a track that pulsed and popped with club beats and gyrating synths. It contained multitudes in its tender yet guarded composition—industrial fortitude, immaculate production, and brittle melancholy vocals.
Body as Subject of Analysis: body deconstructed and mangled into pre-codified state To be codified is to be positioned within a set of rules or boundaries. For the body to be codified, it must adhere to a certain set of functions or have a particular type of make up. The body is made up of organs, and within and around those organs are blood and bones.
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Holly HerndonMovement[RVNG Intl.; 2012]By Colin Joyce; November 8, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThough such strands of thought have been present on the fringes of experimental music since its genesis, within the last several years we’ve seen a newly academic take on the textural possibilities of the human voice and how those possibilities can be integrated into established forms. Composers worldwide are doing their best Alvin Lucier impersonations, though contextualizing it within the overarching themes of their respective movements. Juliana Barwick took a heavenly coo, looped it ad infinitum and established it as a bedrock for a deeply humanized drone.
It’s remarkable when a piece of music causes you to question familiar, unconscious actions — the slight curve of a back against a chair, the shudder of a breath as it leaves the body as an exhale. Even more astounding is when those subtleties are crafted with simply two elements: a laptop and a human voice. For the breathy Holly Herndon, a doctoral student in electronic music studies at Stanford, the laptop is intrinsic to the craft.
Holly Herndon's Movement ends in a lurch. In the midst of an impossibly complex series of harmonies, the voices of "Dilato" lift off an uncertain chord and never hum another one. The moment brings the album to a close, though you wouldn't exactly call it a conclusion. Which, as jarring as it may be, is actually just fine, because Movement doesn't require much in the way of explication: it's that rare experimental album that's nearly as easy to wrap your head around as a pop tune.Perhaps it's because her concept is a fairly common one in electronic music.
Movement is one of those lovely surprises that makes you think, "Of course that's how music should sound right now". It's a curious one: a trip through intimate electronica, acid-y techno and pure vocal composition, with a duration and musical arc somewhere between an EP and an LP (an MP?). But while Herndon is obviously literate in these forms, her configurations and tones are unique.