Holly Herndon: Movement (RVNG Intl.)
Movement is an intriguing short album. Holly Herndon deftly straddles worlds here, ranging from DSP experiments that would be at home on Raster-Noton to beguiling vocal manipulations and infectious dancefloor-compatible production. It’s not surprising that she’s played alongside Carter Tutti, as that blend of aesthetics is not so far off from their more recent excursions. Opener “Terminal” is fairly severe and abstract, while “Fade” is almost anthemic by the time it gets going. Her vocalizing reminds me of a cross between Laurel Halo and AGF, depending on the instance; the timbre of her voice is more melodic like Halo’s, but she’s unafraid to manipulate her voice in ways that recall the way-out explorations of AGF, and that combination of aesthetics is especially cool. Some tracks are more effective than others; “Breathe” focuses on Herndon’s rhythmic wheezing run through effects, and it’s a struggle for me, much like her labored breathing. It’s a case of concept dominating content, and doesn’t fully work for me. But overall Movement is an exciting and elusive album, a varied enough set of ideas and sounds to be consistently engaging and interesting. The title track, for instance, juxtaposes Herndon’s abstracted, detuned vocalizing against an almost arbitrary looping acid synth phrase until it all clicks into place, anchored by a deep bass kick and tight rhythm section. It’s a sharp contrast to “Dilato,” the beatless vocal piece that closes Movement, with Herndon’s vocals pitched either low enough to sound almost like throat singing or wailing with operatic tension. It’s a curious choice as far as ending the short album — suggesting that this is perhaps more simply a selection of tracks rather than a sequenced idea. Either way, it’s a fascinating release that makes me want to hear more from Ms. Herndon — recommended listening.