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Movement by Holly Herndon
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9/10 Dan John 1st May 2014

Much has been written about Holly Herndon since this album was released in 2012 - all the plaudits are justified. This is an album that straddles the avant-garde and techno, taking the modernist impulsives of mid 20th century electro-acoustic composition and updating them to create one of the most genuinely futuristic and exciting experimental electronic albums in years. I loved it on first listen, the combination of really abstract, academic vocal-effect workout tracks with the more upfront beat-led songs such as ‘Fade’ and ‘Movement’ is a revelation and a real joy. Most of the tracks are based around Holly’s vocals, cut-up, looped, distorted and manipulated until often you can barely tell they are vocals at all. Behind it sits driving techno, relatively pop in places, but welcomed in the overall context of the album. Some of the tracks have great space in them; in ‘Breathe’, after the initial gasp and fade of the first 8 seconds, there is a 20 second gap of total silence. The rest of the track uses just her vocals (a la Katie Gately) layered and manipulated until it sounds like a sea of voices, washing in and out over you. Throughout the album her vocals are never clean (as far as I can tell) and I can’t make out any of the words / lyrics. They are used more as instrument, but also provide a strong emotional and expressive element to the music. Similar to the Jacqueline Humbert and Marina Rosenfeld albums I recently reviewed the great strength of this album is the balance between the avant-garde and the human. Of course you don’t need vocals to convey emotions, but I have a preference for it and find tracks with some vocals more engaging. The end two tracks ‘Interlude’ and ‘Dilato’ show the tension of the voice in modern music, the former all computer-robot breakdown squiggles, with the latter harking back to more elemental voice drones, male and female voices interacting in an almost choral finale that leaves an ambiguous feeling on the nature of progress.


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