An exhale of madness and penetratingly rooted method, Holly Herndon’s newly released album, Movement, is an impregnation of embodied music—a phenomenon of increasing concern in the contemporary experimental scene. Driven by a philosophy of incorporating the body into art, detailed in her 2010 thesis “Embodiment in Electronic Music Performance”, Herndon challenges our experience of sound by fleshing it into an organic, breathing entity.
Movement is a stimulating exploration of the potential found in electronic music, which offers vastly unexplored vistas for artists to create textures and experiences previously impossible. The challenge is the precept of music being uninhabited. It is in most degrees external of itself, its output internalized by the listener through immersion into vocals or instrumentals, while if any embodiment occurs, it manifests in dance or the emotional connections of the listener to the sounds. How does Herndon craft an album that is truly embodied, whether by her or by some tremendously alien creature?
Watch Holly Herndon’s official music video for Movement:
The album does not strive to be more than the experience and consequence of human and sonic collage. At once liquefying and spacious, her discord of human sounds stretches over every track with a plunging and undulation possible through being entirely conscious of its own experimentalism. Fade is perhaps most accessible by listeners as an aural strobe-light to Berlin’s purring underground clubs. Flickering peripheral moments invite personal nostalgia for the resemblances found in industrial electronica arrangements, to the likes of a stripped down Judgement by VNV Nation, and significantly more so Laurie Anderson’s O Superman. That is until you’re sent reeling back into Holly Herndon’s bottomless lungs in Breathe in a disconcerting experience of raw human voice meeting oceans of air and the merciless sieve of digital manipulation. Dilato, on the other hand, alludes to the cavernous realms of Noh theatre, trembling between agitation and innocence with locust fields of sound.
By no means is her work ambient, crafted for the benign sterility of casual entertainment. Your entire body moves through it, as you follow the exhalation and the drone of suspended sound with the fingertips of your neural receptors, sometimes giggling at yourself and the experience before categorically losing any sense of orientation. It is a stimulating encounter with the body in a modern medium, to some extent virginal, in the sense that you inevitably encounter textures unfamiliar and sometimes unpleasant. Whether Holly Herndon’s Movement is delirious or utterly lucid is a resolute question reminding us of the experimental bastion yet to be found in contemporary electronic composition.
Photo Credit: Suzy Poling via Windish Agency