Holly Herndon - PROTO
Critic Score
Based on 20 reviews
2019 Ratings: #92 / 757
User Score
Based on 355 ratings
2019 Ratings: #457
Liked by 1 person
May 10, 2019 / Release Date
LP / Format
4AD / Label
Glitch Pop / Genres
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The Skinny

It’s great, difficult, enjoyable, rewarding, prescient – a notable work of art. It wouldn’t be surprising if the years to come recognise it as such.

The Observer

It’s credit to Holly Herndon’s skill as a musical guide that her third album, though up to its elbows in complex ideas, feels so invigorating.


Sounding more like the future than ever before, Holly Herndon broadens the scale and scope of her practice yet again on PROTO.


While PROTO could be impressive for its groundbreaking nature alone, Herndon's meditations on the relationship between humans and increasingly sentient technology are moving and filled with a sense of wonder that makes a rewarding coexistence with AI seem more than possible.


The album is full of anticipation. At times it’s ugly and overblown. But it’s a collective vision, one that reflects back on our own inputs into the dataset as well as at our folk stories of survival and resistance.


PROTO demonstrates that small data and machine learning can be used to evolve our practices of art, community, and tradition, using AI to enhance our most human practices.

Spectrum Culture

What sets Herndon apart is her ability to find the optimism in this information overload, the belief that, much like the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey, an unfathomable technological leap might ultimately drag humanity along with it, not resigning us to the recycle bin but instead producing our next evolutionary step.

Under The Radar
This album makes you think more and more with each listen as its layered brilliance unravels in new, exciting ways.

PROTO is Herndon’s most technologically adventurous work to date, but it is also by far her most ecstatically humanistic.

The Line of Best Fit

PROTO vacillates between ecstasy and anxiety, collapsing one into the other, and perfectly captures the conflicted feelings many possess as we face the future.

The 405

PROTO is already one-of-a-kind, but there are times when Herndon could’ve stood to push the envelope just a bit more ... But she’s in a class of her own when it comes to this sort of electronic pioneering.

The Guardian

Herndon counters the hysteria around AI with an album that presents it as a quizzical, cute pet on the leash of a human master: a sensitive, responsive part of the family.


Proto is a very distinctive record, and its sound design is as astounding as we’ve come to expect from Herndon. It’s also deeply powerful, as its crystalline tones call to mind the ghost in the machine, and leaves the listener wondering what further symbiosis can be achieved.

Tiny Mix Tapes

After observing how these soft machines behave when emitting frequencies together, I am assured that this is of significant import to both our futures. After all, time is on our side.

Resident Advisor

Her results are most memorable in the raw, quiet moments, where the ensemble's mongrel hide shows through.

God Is in the TV

Successful collaborations between humans and AI is the key motive after all for Holly Herndon and Mat Dryhurst to create Spawn and the majority of PROTO is all three of them working together in harmony to create a unique record.

Loud and Quiet

PROTO sounds both like and unlike the sum of its parts: impersonal but human, robotic but curiously beautiful.


It’s something that needs time, that needs effort, and that might not be to everyone’s taste - but ‘PROTO’ is surely something to marvel at, even if it often doesn’t sound great.

The Needle Drop

Holly Herndon’s new album is partially aided by A.I. and features some creative, futuristic art pop pieces—but there are plenty of half-baked experiments as well. Results are mixed.

Pseudointellectualism - the Album
Created with the help of an A.I baby called Spawn and choirs of human and artificial beings, this third studio release from San Francisco-based sound artist and composer explores the possibility of a distant collaboration with the mechanical and the machine that feeds us. A work of utmost ambition and scope.
I loved Holly Herndon's "Platform" and it's true that the San Francisco musician amazed her entourage with her experimental music blending technology and organic. Four years later, she recurs in this approach with her new audacious album called "Proto". Holly Herndon created an artificial intelligence called Spawn designed to react to human singing and to mix the voice of the choir with its own digital singing. It's science fiction! And I think this album really sounds like ... read more
Holly Herndon's new album was a pretty big disappointment for me. While I appreciate the conceptual weight of this project, I found the album forgettable and not intense enough. What I loved so much about her previous record, Platform, was this constant curiosity without regard for a specific sound or melodic line. The music was paradoxically organic and contrived, but it made for an album always searching for resolve. Proto asks a fascinating question and utilizes the human voice more than ... read more
Style way over substance.

Edit: Alright, I'll admit a couple of these songs are great but I'm still not into this album generally.
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Track List

  1. Birth
  2. Alienation
  3. Canaan (Live Training)
  4. Eternal
  5. Crawler
  6. Extreme Love
  7. Frontier
  8. Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt
  9. Swim
  10. Evening Shades (Live Training)
  11. Bridge
  12. Godmother (feat. Spawn)
  13. Last Gasp
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Added on: March 11, 2019