This conceptually clever release by San Francisco-based artist Holly Herndon, a decorated graduate of Mills College, was commissioned based on the notion that cassettes are listened to mostly in the car. Herndon thus uses the car as a jumping-off point for sound exploration that veers from the abstracted to the absurd.
An opening note: contrary to the instructions, and although I highly recommend doing so to others, I did not listen to this in my car. I drive a pretty old car, and while it does have seatbelts, it does not have a CD player or a cassette player.
Although the car informs the work, the first side is far from a direct representation. Instead, there’s a pervasive sense of fun, with field recordings of power windows, spliced-together radio dial sweeps and a quirky fake voiceovers addressed directly to the listener. There are also long stretches of minimal waveform synthesis and modular work, and sine wave sweeps that interact with the mechanical pitch of a humming engine. There are even police sirens.
The second side is a bit more “serious,” with more lively synthesis, feedbacky sine waves, and some crescendo of interplay between field recordings and synths. The side plays almost as an installation piece for the interior of a car, creating a constantly shifting sound environment. But actually, there’s also a weird sense of unease from this surprisingly irreverent yet thought-provoking take on the notion of “car.”