Holly Herndon's Movement ends in a lurch. In the midst of an impossibly complex series of harmonies, the voices of "Dilato" lift off an uncertain chord and never hum another one. The moment brings the album to a close, though you wouldn't exactly call it a conclusion. Which, as jarring as it may be, is actually just fine, because Movement doesn't require much in the way of explication: it's that rare experimental album that's nearly as easy to wrap your head around as a pop tune.
Perhaps it's because her concept is a fairly common one in electronic music. Herndon, a former Berlin club kid who now studies composition and music technology at Stanford, is one in a long line of producers and composers teasing out the humanity latent in machines. Herndon comes at it from the opposite direction, though: instead of making her circuits pump with blood, she presents humans as bit players in a particularly complex Ableton session. The primary sound on Movement is the human voice, but Herndon's main instrument is the laptop that gets them hissing, buzzing, clashing and pulsing. (It seems like no mistake that the album's abrupt end feels a bit like a MacBook dying mid-email.) Although there are probably more organic sounds on this album than on the lion's share of electronic records released this year, it's one of the chilliest you're likely to hear.
So while there are some beautifully transcendent moments on Movement—the title track, where loopy acid sits beneath mile-wide vocal melodies, is one such standout—the results can feel more like data collection than truly compelling music. Her arrangements are constructed a bit like vocal warm-ups, which has the odd effect of making the record's workhorse sound underutilized and a little hackneyed. Still, these freeform-feeling but deeply constructed exercises find Herndon at her strongest; her beat-driven work, like the Knife-channeling "Fade," is undercooked by comparison. Movement, then, is more a proof of concept than a fully fleshed-out thought, though Herndon brings enough passion to her sound to suggest one is coming.