Record Bulletin

Record Bulletin, 6/16: Holly Herndon – “Platform” and Jamie xx – “In Colour”

Ain’t No Party Like a Alt-Electronica Party ‘Cuz an Alt-Electronica Party’s So Unfashionable

Finally caved to Jamie xx’s In Colour. Nice album, but as I’ll post in the next day or two, I’m not feeling 2015. I keep finding myself wanting to go back to last year’s albums, and every week when the next batch of New Releases shows up on Rhapsody, most everything doesn’t strike me as even remotely interesting. Waah waah.

holly herndon platformHOLLY HERNDON – Platform (4AD): What most interested me in this electronic patchwork was the non-song, spoken-word “Lonely at the Top,” an ASMR session straight from YouTube designed to induce tingling on the neck and head of the listener, a kind of audio arousal. Can’t say I’ve watched too many of these videos to claim I researched them thoroughly, but I was struck by Herndon’s narration, which flatters the listener during a ‘massage,’ repeating how hard they work, how successful they are, that they’re a great person, how the speaker couldn’t do without them, ending with some lip smacking as the massage finishes, climaxing (apologies for the term) with a happy ending. It’s this kind of virtual stimulation that threatens to blur the line between reality and simulation, a neat thought experiment on its own, but not something I’d cue up on my stereo or share with friends as a Best New Track; it works, kind of, as an art piece, one created by a Stanford PhD candidate in composition. The rest is Herndon’s voice chopped up and pasted in irregular patterns between beats and blips and bloops, melding the organic with the electronic, yak yak. There’s probably some rhyme and reason to the arrangements, but this reviewer’s ears aren’t equipped to decipher it, and since these are, after all, compositions made with coding software and not songs per se, I’m not convinced it’s worth the effort to try. Strange album. B PLUS (*)

Jamiexx-InColourJAMIE XX – In Colour (Young Turks): Jamie Smith, one half of the xx, here on a solo electronica venture that ditches his band’s measured minimalism for full-bodied bass thumps, peppered vocal samples, and plentiful hi-hats to keep your toes tapping. Not surprised to see Keiran Hebden show up as co-producer on “SeeSaw,” as Smith’s style is fairly similar—easy grooves, largely averse to hyper-rhythms, chilled out, and good as a cool-down after a night of clubbing rather than being the feature. Don’t buy too hard into the hype—this isn’t life-changing or groundbreaking—but dismiss detractors: says Andrew Ryce of Resident Advisor, it’s “rarely as profound or as meaningful as it tries to be.” But it’s not trying to be profound. It’s ear candy crafted by a guy who sees his laptop as a melody maker and desktops as tunetables. And sorry, but I gotta do it: two songs in particular sound inspired from elsewhere: 1) the high-pitched synth steps on opener “Gosh” are awfully similar to Bocelli’s vocal styling on the chorus of “Con Te Partiro,” and 2) “Stranger In a Room” recalls Thom Yorke’s “The Clock,” both probably happy coincidences and not worth mentioning, but nobody else did, so I do. A MINUS

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