Holly Herndon – Frontier

To create her forthcoming album Proto, Holly Herndon worked in collaboration with an ensemble of vocalists and an AI she helped create called Spawn. She has now released the LP’s third single ‘Frontier’. With its crackling beats, red lining vocals, and layers of texturing, the track is a spiritual experience that is uniquely human.

AI, spirituality, and humanity might seem like they exist on very different planes. On ‘Frontier’, Herndon removes the question, instead letting them freely integrate and work together. The result is unique but also familiar. It finds itself at the roots of Western music tradition and bursts with the type of energy usually reserved for the church.

Herndon explained the creation of the song: “I went to an international Sacred Harp Meetup in Berlin where I live, which was jointly led by Evelyn Saylor (an ensemble collaborator who helped to arrange “Frontier” to more accurately reflect the tradition), and people gathered in a square to sing facing each other. When I stood in the middle the power of the voices brought me to tears. It was partly pure sonics and the beauty of the songs, but also the sight of witnessing people from all different backgrounds come together under such a simple and elegant premise. There were visitors from afar for whom the experience clearly had some deep religious significance. There were even more visitors clearly drawn to the event for other reasons, albeit the nature of the communion itself, or just to nerd out on the music. It felt like a rare union.”

“Frontier” feels like a church service in a small Balkan mountain town at dawn. Voices rip through like a storm and light rays cut through still, shadowed trees. Understanding and reinterpretation are central to the track. It takes a spiritual tradition and makes it new again by adding another level of comprehension. It is a bit like traveling. ‘Frontier’ allows listeners to see the world from an angle they had not yet.


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