Holly Herndon – PROTO


Music made with the help of an AI named Spawn? Oh fuck ya.

If you’re anything me, you’ve been reading and digging deep into that AI tech because one day it’ll destroy us … maybe. If you use a smartphone, smart car, drone, social media, music or streaming sites, play video games, see online ads, use any map on your phone, have done anything with banking or finance, then you’ve been interacting with an AI. That veggie burger that tastes exactly like meat and bleeds? That’s AI, motherfucker. The tomatoes in your grocery store, the grain in your bread, and that salad you’re not eating may have been grown by the hand of an robot. There are even AIs making mood music. Are they any good? Oh fuck no. Right now AI music us full of cheap schlocky shit. If you’re reading this and shaking your head thinking, “But I’ve heard that AI music and it’s amazing.” I would go back and check those fineprinting fuckers before you go singing those AI musical praises. From what I’ve found, there’s always a nice human-sized composer and lyricist helping that AI along.

Holly Herndon enjoys walking the blood covered knife’s edge when it comes to what’s creative. When she says she built a baby AI to help her make this album, she fucking means it. Does it mean the AI did everything? Let’s hang up that tinfoil hat there for a second. Right now using an AI in electronic music is like using a new instrument. You have to feed that shit data and it will stream out noise in the key and tempo that you provide. Basically at the moment, it’s a wood chipper of notes. In one end, out the other. For sure we need to be aware of what AI could eventually be—especially after the fucking singularity—but it won’t be travelling through time to kill kids anytime soon.

I passed this album over at first. I didn’t give it the credit it deserved. The club pop elements on the song “Alienation” were too much for me. I went back to this album because Jlin is fucking awesome. She features on the song “Godmother”. Once I pushed through certain sounds that I found conventional, the album revealed itself. Much like artists like SOPHIE, this album rides the edge between pop and experimentalism. Electronic beats are put beside a choir of human voices. The stranger electronic sounds keep you interested, but it’s the orchestral arrangements that give it a fucking heart. By the time a choir sings out “Why I am so lost” on the song “Crawler” I was as hooked as a body piercer going bass fishing. Holly continues to be part of this generation’s pop experimentalists influenced by the likes of Roxy Music, Kate Bush, and Bjork. I’ve read a lot of motherfuckers that listened to this album and said shit like, “Who even wrote this? What part is human? What part is machine?” Calm down a second. Look outside. Do you see hailing laser beams? How about you go watch a 10-minute movie made by an AI fed a bunch of sci-fi screenplays, and a couple prompts, called Sunspring? It’s hilariously bad. It also gives you a better picture of where we’re currently at. There’s no question that Holly is the fucking composer on this album. She got a PhD in composition from fucking Stanford for fuck’s sake. You think she’s not going to use that shit? Sure, we’re not quite into the age of independent walking/talking robot Mozarts, but it doesn’t mean that we can’t poke the tin can a bit and make it wail like a little bitch.

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