• Record Label: 4AD
  • Release Date: May 10, 2019

Universal acclaim - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 17
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 17
  3. Negative: 1 out of 17
Buy On
  1. May 13, 2019
    The continuity stressed between body and tool, folk history and future, like the work of Meredith Monk or Björk, lures the listener away from the twin traps of techno-evangelist complacency and technophobic retreat with sweet inspiration.
  2. May 7, 2019
    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.
  3. May 14, 2019
    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.
  4. May 13, 2019
    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.
  5. May 13, 2019
    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.
  6. May 7, 2019
    You don't just feel unburdened of "progress" dysphoria, you feel like you've emerged from the paradigm equipped with a new language to help you navigate the next one.
  7. May 14, 2019
    Herndon and her ensemble displace the human voice from its usual setting just enough that it startles the ear. But that displacement allows you to hear voices as if for the very first time, listening ravenously for proof that out there in the unknown, someone besides yourself exists and is singing.
  8. May 17, 2019
    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.
  9. Q Magazine
    May 14, 2019
    PROTO sometimes hews close to well-worn dystopian tropes, and the child narrator and see-sawing breath sounds of Extreme Love are undeniably annoying. But Herndon's creative restlessness and textural mastery sustain interest across 45 minutes. [Jul 2019, p.108]
  10. May 14, 2019
    For listeners coming into the album without knowledge of its overarching concept, PROTO is also full of pop-forward compositions that are striking in their own right. ... For a record about the development of machine cognition, PROTO is remarkably human at every turn.
  11. May 10, 2019
    The whole album wobbles with the uncertainty of potential. The composition tumbles between folk, pop, techno and computer music. Sometimes it’s unrefined like the untethered looping of ‘Bridge’ and sometimes dazzling and terrifying like ‘Crawler’, a track that builds toward the edge of sentience--but it’s never short on ideas.
  12. May 10, 2019
    PROTO is already one-of-a-kind, but there are times when Herndon could’ve stood to push the envelope just a bit more, instead of giving lovely but somewhat slight and redundant moments like ‘Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt’ or the ‘Live Training’ interludes. But she’s in a class of her own when it comes to this sort of electronic pioneering.
  13. May 10, 2019
    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.
  14. 80
    PROTO vacillates between ecstasy and anxiety, collapsing one into the other, and perfectly captures the conflicted feelings many possess as we face the future. A crucial step forward, its approach demonstrates that maintaining human agency alongside radical, new technologies can produce both bewildering and beautiful results that perhaps nobody, not even Herndon, could have predicted.
  15. May 13, 2019
    Though Spawn only features on about a third of the album, the AI's conceptual impact is key to Proto. ... The compositions elsewhere are dense and overwhelming.
  16. Uncut
    May 7, 2019
    While "Godmother" confounds with its sci-fi babble, the likes of "Alienation" and "External" suggest that a tune is a tune in any language. [Jun 2019, p.29]
  17. The Wire
    May 7, 2019
    Most of the vocals elsewhere are unintelligible, blurred between endless layers of patchworked echolalia or overlaid with metal grid sheen and a mesh of hissing and crunching, skittering beats far removed from any sense of body based, physically entrained rhythm. But ultimately it’s just a shonkier version of the cut-ups and vocal splices Herndon’s been working with since her 2014 12" Chorus. [May 2019, p.52]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 23 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 23
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 23
  3. Negative: 4 out of 23
  1. May 10, 2019
    What strikes me most about Holly Herndon's new album "PROTO" is it's ability to conjure difficult sounds and textures without fully exploringWhat strikes me most about Holly Herndon's new album "PROTO" is it's ability to conjure difficult sounds and textures without fully exploring their capabilities. This might turn most music listeners off, but the way Herndon controls this waning of her production is where the artistry comes through. It's much like grabbing a giant handful of sand and then letting the crystals slowly fall through your fingers to be swept away by the wind. Full Review »
  2. May 13, 2019
    It is hard to distinguish between machine learning results and human involvement, and I guess those unearthly sounds are not meant to please,It is hard to distinguish between machine learning results and human involvement, and I guess those unearthly sounds are not meant to please, but this is something few have experimented before. Herndon's utilization of the AI-produced sounds, and the combination of the avant pop-based tracks and glitch influence, are themselves a kind of gesture and declaration, about our role and conflicted feelings towards a new era of technology. Full Review »
  3. Mua
    May 21, 2019
    Biblia del poc putariana desea cantar así. Artisimo, icónico, sucesor de medullarte.