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Electronic/Dance - Released April 7, 2014 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 6, 2015 | 4AD

Hi-Res Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Her album Visions illuminated 2012. With her 4th studio album Art Angels, Grimes succeeds once again - excelling in the field of electro pop and ferverish eclecticism. This time the Canadian rounds off a few more angles, producing a range of melodies that are undeniably more 'pop', but also irresistibly catchy. The result is a diluted and diverse experience compared with past efforts, but without losing her unique identity and artistic singularity. Indeed, Grimes does not do electro pop like her counterparts. Each song from Art Angels comes with a slight twist or the vital dose of quirkiness necessary to makes it a fascinating composition. Note the presence of Janelle Monáe on one of the tracks. © MD / Qobuz
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Electronic/Dance - Released March 12, 2015 | 4AD

Electronic/Dance - Released September 5, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released May 10, 2019 | 4AD

On each of her albums, Holly Herndon thoughtfully examines the boundaries between humankind and technology, and how our innovations define us as much as we define them. She began her explorations with the sketches of physical and virtual intimacy that made up 2012's Movement and broadened her scope on 2014's Platform, where her self-surveillance of her everyday online interactions ranged from mundane to unsettling. On 2019's PROTO, she takes another significant step forward. A collaboration with Spawn, an AI that Herndon created with her partner Mat Dryhurst and programmer Jules LaPlace, her third album reflects her own evolution as an artist and thinker as it documents the project's development. As its name suggests, Herndon's neural network was in its infancy when she made PROTO. To train this cutting-edge technology, she connected it with the oldest roots of her music, and music in general: the human voice. Herndon spent her youth singing in church and secular choirs, and a major part of Spawn's education was learning how to interpret soloists and vocal groups. On choral pieces such as "Evening Shades (Live Training)," PROTO offers glimpses into these lessons that reflect not only Herndon's skills as an arranger, but the project's guiding philosophy that human and synthetic voices are more powerful together than on their own. Likewise, the album presents Spawn's growth as a creative consciousness at different stages. On "Birth," a choir surrounds her as her stuttering voice gradually assembles itself; on "Godmother," she creates fascinating, uncanny vocalizations based on song stems from Herndon and footwork producer Jlin. Meanwhile, the way "Crawler" morphs from an electronic-based duet between Herndon and Spawn to an a cappella piece feels as exploratory as creation itself. Since one of the project's primary goals was introducing Spawn to the humanity of music, it's fitting that PROTO is more melodic and spontaneous than Herndon's previous albums. "Alienation" is a strange but stately blend of choral tradition and electronic pop; along with "Eternal," it evokes Björk and Purity Ring while pushing creative technology's boundaries. One of the main reasons the album is so vital-sounding is the interplay between Herndon, Spawn, and their collaborators, a theme that PROTO explores to its fullest. Herndon expresses the theory behind it beautifully on "Extreme Love," a daringly maternal manifesto that suggests our relationship with microbes as a natural precedent for the type of connected intelligence that could occur between people and AI. On "SWIM," she puts this theory into practice, uniting a choir of human and synthetic voices in gorgeous harmony. Elsewhere, Herndon hints that living side by side with AI won't always be simple, whether on the plaintive, heavily processed "Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt" or "Last Gasp," which enmeshes a delicate vocal in grinding electronics. 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. ~ Heather Phares
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Electronic/Dance - Released November 15, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released December 13, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 15, 1993 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 29, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released July 23, 2012 | 4AD

While whimsical, female-voiced electronic pop was all the rage when Purity Ring's debut album Shrines was released, the duo still managed to stand out from the crowd. Their sweetly chilly sound falls somewhere between Grimes' intricate quirks and the rhapsodic wordplay and sensuality of Braids, but Purity Ring's individuality comes from the equal partnership of Megan James' girlish vocals and unusual lyrics, and Corin Roddick's playful electronic soundscapes. Shrines makes good on the promise of the songs the duo previously issued online, which remain highlights: "Fineshrine" may still be the quintessential Purity Ring song, with James entreating the listener to "cut open my sternum and poke" as Roddick's backdrop flits between gentle and ominous; many of James' songs are focused on the body, treating it with almost spiritual wonder as on the dark, Crystal Castles-like "Belispeak." Meanwhile, "Ungirthed" remains a showcase for the duo's fascination with ultra-bright electronic tones that add to Shrines' largely, if deceptively, innocent feel. These songs and "Amenamy" and "Obedear" could be from the soundtrack to some fantastical anime series yet to be written, but just when the album threatens to become a little too sweet and samey for its own good, Roddick and James reveal new levels to Purity Ring's sound. "Lofticries"' more sophisticated melody and "Cartographist"'s eerie atmosphere and fractured beats hint at a depth that should serve the duo well. As it stands, Shrines is a fine debut, full of lighter-than-air synth pop that manages to be dark, sparkling, innocent, and knowing all at once. ~ Heather Phares
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Electronic/Dance - Released October 31, 2019 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released March 2, 2015 | 4AD

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After the surge of ethereal electronic bands that arrived in the wake of Shrines, Purity Ring's Megan James and Corin Roddick wanted their second album to stand out from the pack. On Another Eternity, they do just that -- by becoming more pop. Where Shrines often felt exploratory, this album is direct, possibly because they worked in physical proximity for the first time, choosing Edmonton as a home base. Another Eternity makes the contrast between James' limpid vocals and Roddick's thumping beats more distinct, and distinctive, than ever, particularly on the gorgeous "Begin Again." Wedding poetic verses with soaring, insistent choruses that CHVRCHES would love to call their own, it's one of Purity Ring's most immediate songs. However, it isn't a compromise, and as James and Roddick look to even more popular styles of music for inspiration, they sound more unique. Their R&B and hip-hop leanings are clearer than they were on Shrines, and on tracks like "Repetition," which sounds equally alien and sensual, and "Stranger Than Earth," where rattling, trap-inspired beats add some friction, they're also more creative. And while Roddick and James are no longer online collaborators, they still play with the dualities of virtual and real, physical and spiritual on Another Eternity. Song titles like "Push Pull" and phrases like "veins growing slow" nod to James' fascination with bodily imagery on Shrines, and her crystalline, perhaps slightly processed vocals have a more-human-than-human vulnerability that gives "Heartsigh" a hyperreal poignancy. It all comes together brilliantly on "Bodyache," a wish for intimacy to a music-box melody and synths that sparkle like tears -- or stars. Another Eternity remains true to what makes Purity Ring special by refining it, and proves that they can challenge themselves and deliver their most accessible work yet. ~ Heather Phares
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Electronic/Dance - Released February 21, 2012 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released April 8, 2016 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released January 3, 2020 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released May 18, 2015 | 4AD

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Just as Holly Herndon's debut album Movement had abundant layers in its title alone, its follow-up Platform is just as nuanced in how it combines political, technological, and structural and ideological concepts into a single word. She explores all of these ideas in thought-provoking and unsettling ways that expand on Movement's fragmented, ethereal approach. On tracks such as "Chorus," which was made from samples of Herndon's Internet browsing; "Home," a breathy piece of pop inspired by NSA surveillance, and the eerily erotic sketch "Lonely at the Top," she blurs the line between intimacy and invasiveness, providing commentary on the way humanity and technology interact that elevates Platform into a true work of art. ~ Heather Phares
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Electronic/Dance - Released October 9, 2006 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released October 19, 2015 | 4AD

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Electronic/Dance - Released November 6, 2015 | 4AD

Grimes already defied easy classification on Visions, a collection of dreamy electronic collages that resembled pop just enough to make it one of 2012's most acclaimed albums. When she returned three years later with Art Angels, her music was even more paradoxical; Claire Boucher's fourth album is wilder, more ambitious, and -- at least on the surface -- more accessible than her breakthrough. This time, Boucher's production draws attention to all the sounds and styles she's juggling: "laughing and not being normal" begins things with symphonic pomp, its trilling vocals, piano filigrees, and pizzicato strings signaling that this album is an event. "SCREAM," a fiery duet with Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes, incorporates drumline-tinged beats -- as well as Boucher's spine-tingling howls -- into its iconoclastic feminine power, while "Easily" and "Artangels" touch on different but equally shiny flavors of late-'90s pop without a trace of irony. Elsewhere, "World Princess, Pt. 2" and "Venus Fly," which features Janelle Monáe -- one of the few artists who rivals Grimes when it comes to high-concept, utterly catchy music -- bring Visions' R&B leanings to the fore. It could all lead to sonic whiplash, but Boucher's staunchly independent viewpoint is the glue that holds together Art Angels. She matches the album's bolder sounds with songwriting that's more daring and, at times, more aggressive. On "Kill V. Maim," she combines her perkiest vocals and angriest lyrics, topping beats that land like bombs with cheerleader-like chanting. A reworked version of "Realiti" underscores how driven she sounds here; her declarations of independence are catchier than ever, blending the cute and the formidable until they're one and the same. Similarly, Boucher explores how destruction and creation are joined at the hip in vivid, hooky songs like "Flesh Without Blood," where ending a relationship means self-preservation, and the standout "California," where bliss and disaster meet ("When the ocean rises above the ground/Maybe I'll drown") with an unexpected but very welcome twang. "I'll never be your dream girl," Boucher sings on "Butterfly," but she adds "you could be anything," making the connection between honoring yourself and ignoring others' expectations clear. She does both consistently -- and consistently well -- with Art Angels' truly independent pop. ~ Heather Phares
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Electronic/Dance - Released October 30, 2006 | 4AD

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  • Sohn who?
    Sohn who? British Electro Soul... Tremors is the new album from Sohn released at 4AD earlier this week and frankly, we love it.