Published May 07, 2019Sounding more like the future than ever before, Holly Herndon broadens the scale and scope of her practice yet again on PROTO, plunging deeper into the tech-scape and enlisting the help of a vocal ensemble and an artificial intelligence named Spawn to offer a metaphor for internet protocol thinking.
Rendering sophisticated performances from voices, both human and artificial, and blurring the supposed boundaries between them through characteristically intricate and complicated processing, it is often difficult to be fully certain when Spawn is present. But Herndon allows glimpses of her process in recordings of vocal training exercises ("Evening Shades (Live Training)"), Spawn and the choir engaging in disorienting call-and-response.
These sequences illustrate the technology's dependence on human input, further establishing an accessible landscape upon which to confront our shared sense of alienation (from others, our devices, ourselves) and when the choir reaches its most emotive heights on tracks like "Alienation" or "Frontier," Herndon's palette overflows with euphoria-inducing sensations you might expect summiting a great mountain.
You don't just feel unburdened of "progress" dysphoria, you feel like you've emerged from the paradigm equipped with a new language to help you navigate the next one. (4AD)