Album Notes - Holly Herndon - PROTO

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"Why am I so lost?" asks Holly Herndon on "Crawler," the fifth track of PROTO. It's a sentiment many can relate to, especially in a day and age where technology has taken over the world, and the line between man and machine has become increasingly blurred. That distinction, or rather lack thereof, is perhaps best exemplified here on Herndon's third album. The former choir singer, who also recently finished a doctorate at Stanford, has a collaborator unlike anything I've ever heard of: Spawn. The fittingly named AI program, which learns and adapts over time, was created by Herndon, along with producer Mathew Dryhurst and software developer Jules LaPlace. As music is inputed, Spawn is able to gather and interpret information, formulating an answer with its own original response, serving as something of a co-writer and partner as it reacts and composes in its own "voice." Its human creator allows us a chance to witness this evolution on "Canaan" and "Evening Shades," two tracks noted as "live trainings," in which Spawn essentially duets as a choir with Herndon in a pair of goosebump-inducing call-and-response forays.

It must be said that Herndon is not one for reimagining the past by use of samples. She is a deep-thinking, forward-looking artist who acknowledges the ethical dilemmas technologies pose, while stating that she hopes to bring a more human element to technology. Among other musings, she laments the fact that an algorithm "signed" a record deal with Warner Music Group. Herndon finds such ventures "boring," as she told Jezebel, since they put us in a "feedback loop culturally which does not move us forward." That is something no one can accuse the Tennessee native of. For Holly Herndon, the future is now. PROTO might provide a glimpse of it for the rest of us.

(If this album isn't for you, I completely understand. I've been enraptured by it not only for its musicality, but also by the possibilities it presents. But simply put, it's some weird shit. You might think it sounds like Enya covering "Fitter Happier.")



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