Holly Herndon Plays Volksbuehne Tonight

Maybe you’re sitting in front of your laptop at work, digestion-sleepy after lunch.

It’s slightly hotter in the room than you’re comfortable with. You’ve been staring at the screen for hours and it’s made your eyes feel weird – or not your eyes exactly, but a bit behind your eyes, that’s where it feels weird.

Or you’ve been lying in bed, scrolling through your phone. In the background there’s one of those Spotify ads playing that always seems to be about how to not have to listen to Spotify ads. You’ve forgotten about whatever you originally put on, and the prediction algorithms are doing dumb stuff. Basically, you’re in any of the hundreds of software-catalyzed stupors that it’s so easy to fall into these days – not really existing anywhere or feeling anything precise, but vaguely distracted and not-at-ease.

Enter Holly Herndon. Whenever I find myself in this particular state of confusion and exhaustion, her music has been a glass to break in-case-of-emergency; I can put on my headphones or up the volume on my speakers and throw on Movement (2012), Platform (2015) or PROTO (released in May) – and something changes. You could definitely call this “transportative,” – it takes you to strange new places, but so do yodelling recordings. What’s particularly refreshing about Herndon’s work is that it doesn’t seem to try to move away from the facts of life in a digital world, or to simply appropriate those facts towards more active ends (see: techno), but rather seems interested in looking at this world and trying to understand what it does to us and and articulate how it makes us feel.

There’s not much use in trying to explain the music beyond that. Herndon has done some really cool stuff with PROTO where she works with an AI music baby, and you can (and should) read all about it somewhere else. Listen to it. Put her on when you’re feeling tired or dull; she will change that. And if you like what you hear, come see her perform with an ensemble of vocalists at the Volksbuehne tonight, at 8pm.

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