Rather than jumping on the Luddite bandwagon as so many have done before, Holly Herndon uses the sound of modern technology to explore the crooks and the crannies of our online world. Her album Platform is a rattling, crooked collection of sounds and textures that may initially seem like a mess, but soon reveals itself to be a deliberate mess, with a true musical mastermind at its centre.
A song like album opener Interference isn’t a damnation of the plugged in and switched on nature of the society we have made for ourselves; it’s a surprisingly human ballad dedicated to the myriad of experiences the world wide web offers us. It sounds like a hundred things going on at once, which is exactly how it’s meant to sound. After all, we live in a world where our children are playing on ipads while they watch television while they listen to their ipods.
Herndon uses her voice like a tool. It’s largely absent from the forefront of the record, spending most of the running time working its magic in the background, but when it steps forward right in to the listener’s ears as on the breath-taking Unequal or while conducting a one sided conversation on the haunting Lonely At The Top it genuinely dazzles. While her delivery is technically perfect, it’s effectively un-emotive; one can imagine Herndon’s blank expression as she recorded the oohs and aahs that rise like waves on DAO.
Nonetheless the most surprisingly brilliant aspect of the record is Herndon’s ear for melody. Though songs frequently begin with a collage of noise – New Ways To Love begins with sucking, whooshing static; Morning Sun opens with tapped out electro beats and human voices – they do all gradually reveal their melodic hearts. Hearing a song like Chorus transform from a collection of grainy textures and sound-bytes into an ear-friendly tune – or at least, Herndon’s version of an ear-friendly tune – is a genuine sonic delight.
Platform isn’t as much an album as it is an experience. It’s an explosion of noise, tone, texture and instrumentation that demands repeated listens. Indeed, one’s initial reaction to the album might be a puzzled dismissal. But give the record enough time, and sooner or later you’ll have your eureka moment: that split second when the whole jagged piece slips into focus, and everything starts making sense.