Holly Herndon - Proto LP
Holly's third full-length album PROTO isn't about A.I., but much of it was created in collaboration with her own A.I.'baby,' Spawn. For the record, she assembled a contemporary ensemble of vocalists, developers and an inhuman intelligence housed in a DIY souped-up gaming PC to create a record that encompasses live vocal processing and timeless folk singing, and places an emphasis on alien song craft and new forms of communion.
PROTO makes reference to what Holly refers to as the Protocol era, where rapidly surfacing ideological battles over the future of A.I Protocols, centralised and decentralised internet Protocols, and personal and political Protocols compel us to ask ourselves who are we, what are we, what do we stand for, and what are we heading towards?
You can hear traces of Spawn throughout the album, developed in partnership with long time collaborator Mathew Dryhurst and ensemble developer Jules LaPlace, throughout the album, and even eavesdrop on the live training ceremonies conducted in Berlin, in which hundreds of people were gathered to teach Spawn how to identify and reinterpret unfamiliar sounds in group call-and-response singing sessions; a contemporary update on the religious gathering Holly was raised amongst in her upbringing in East Tennessee.
Since her arrival in 2012, Holly has successfully mined the edges of electronic and Avant Garde pop and emerged with a dynamic and disruptive canon of her own, all while studying for her soon-to-be-completed PhD at Stanford University, researching machine learning and music. Her LP Platform closed out 2015 by gracing year-end lists from Pitchfork, The Guardian, NME, and The Wire. In the aftermath, Radiohead hand-picked her to open up their European tour.
Just as Platform forewarned of the manipulative personal and political impacts of prying social media platforms long before popular acceptance, PROTO is a euphoric and principled statement setting the shape of things to come.