Holly Herndon’s “Fade” sounds like a dance track that you might hear clubbing inside of Robert Moog’s brain if he was on acid and had a tiny dance club in his brain. (Robert Moog was the physicist who invented the synthesizer, if you were wondering.)
Part mad science project, part clubby drum and bass syth-straveganza, “Fade” is all awesome. It’s also by my estimation, the standout (and most accessible) track on Holly Herndon’s recent album Movement.
Herndon got her start DJing in Berlin before studying electronic music composition at Mills College and then Stanford. The influence of the club as well as academia are both evident in her freshman effort under the NY record label RVNG intl.
The album is pretty out there. It involves a lot of bizarre manipulation of Herndon’s voice as well as world sounds, e.g. a crinkling plastic bag that is reduced into glitchy locust-like oscillations in “Terminal,” or Herndon’s sharp inhalations warped into a rasping series of strangely demonic tones that build into chords on “Breathe.” All of this is set to synth-heavy break-beats and bass lines that ebb and flow through tracks, and often dissolve into brooding atmospheric soundscapes. Yeah, it’s definitely out there. But that’s a good thing. Movements is challenging — it’s different, refreshing.
For many listeners, the album might be a little esoteric, several of the tracks delve closer to what I might consider sound experiments rather than anything I could unpretentiously call music. But in her experimentation, Herndon creates a sound that is singular. A sound that is, at times, chilling, intimate, evocative, even grating, but that nevertheless remains captivating from start to finish. Any self-proclaimed music connoisseur probably ought to give this album a listen. But if all of this sounds a little avant garde for you, then at the very least, do yourself the service of basking in the awesomeness that is “Fade.”