Today in blanket statements that might be a bit unfair (but are probably true anyway): What prevents most people from engaging with electronic music is a lack of exposure to the icons of the genre. Now, it seems like I’m stating the obvious (because I am), but consider what helped you engage certain styles of outsider art: it’s probably because someone introduced you to a seminal artist or record that piqued your interest. And once you fell in love with a certain musician or album, you started exploring the people who influenced or were influenced by that person or creation.
I feel Platform, by Holly Herndon could become that touchstone, the entry point for a new generation of music fans who’ve never discovered the wonders of minimalist electronic music.
Based in San Francisco, CA, Holly Herndon has created a series of ten resplendent soundscapes that on one hand, could be the score for a stark indie film. On the other hand, stand tall as beautiful compositions in their own right.
Released concurrently on RVNG and 4AD, this record will introduce people anew to the iconic worlds of Steve Reich and Philip Glass while providing inroads to lesser-known artists like Ikonika, Robag Wruhme, and Steve Layton. If you’re in search of more contemporary counterparts as a basis of comparison, I’d recommend the work of James Blake, Bjork, The Knife, and Fever Ray. But those only scratch the surface of what Herndon accomplishes with her gloriously warped version of electro-pop.
Herndon feints again and again at tempo-less sound collages through the combination of dense syncopation, pitch-bent vocals, and heavily phase-shifted synths. The snare claps and bass thumps rarely hit on the root beat, but it’s when the bass thumps are replaced with low drone tones does the album take on a life of its own. She shifts the vocals up and down into various registers and across tempos to create both melody and counterpoint lines, while achieving the sensation of fractured field recordings set to deconstructed post-dubstep of the Mount Kimbie variety.
The more rhythmic tracks like “Chorus,” “Morning Sun,” and “Home” stop just short of employing pop sensibilities, giving the album a more ready access point to the uninitiated. But it’s songs like “Locker Leak” and “An Exit” that give the record its true identity – icy textures delivering a bracing blast of cold water to the face while never being caustic or iconoclastic.
Holly Herndon has crafted a superior album that presents the ins and outs of experimental electronic music in inventive ways that will appeal to people, no matter how familiar they might be with the genre. I recommend Platform without equivocation or hyperbole, and it will easily be a contender for one of my favorite records of 2015.
Despite all of the cliches you might have heard about the place, Adam P. Newton actually enjoys living in Texas – most of the time. He currently creates and curates content for a marketing agency, and in his limited free time, he writes a memoir about his journey through music called “Explaining Grownup Music to Kids.”