The inimitable Laurel Halo returns to Hyperdub after her lauded debut album Quarantine, treading brave new ground on her taut new EP. Gone are the vocals and glassy ambience of the LP as Halo mines a more unsettled, paranoid vein of sound, focussing on low-end and percussion while flirting seductively with the fringes of dance music.
The release’s title may reference a notorious porno flick, but any sexuality present is tainted and distorted by an unsettling energy which courses through each of these immaculate productions. Opener Throw kicks off powerfully, with crystalline keys echoing out over a tense field of shifting percussive twitches and muscular bass hits. The beauty of this track relies on its contrast; the beat pattern constantly shifting and mutating, while the reverberation of those fragile keys continues to linger even when their melody is all but gone.
Second cut Uhffo is more rugged, a tough kick the only anchor to an agitated soundfield occasionally interrupted by strangled synth swells. The unpredictability of each of these tracks keeps the listener constantly alert, here an insistent hiss sounds like a scratch on the record, while descending keys gradually give way to a soft ambient wash.
If the A-side never really lets the listener get comfortable, third cut Nofyb takes it a step further. A bouncing, DJ-friendly intro opens up to an alarming synth loop, before a bed of metallic chimes give on to a searing scifi intrusion. Throughout this release, Halo persistently plays with the listener’s comfort zones, following each sudden rest with an equally abrupt freak-out in a genuinely disconcerting manner.
The package is rounded off with the distinctly technoid Sexmission, some of the straightest dance-work we’ve seen from Halo this side of her King Felix alias. It’s another proud piece, a tough kick receding and emerging from a disconcerting bed of suffocated machine noise and foghorn bass notes. Halo’s latest may prove an unsettling listen but it is undeniably powerful and rhythmically complex music. To not only attempt such an abrupt stylistic shift but to pull it off with confidence and finesse is a rare feat, resulting in a stellar addition to the increasingly impressive repertoire of one of the electronic scene’s bravest artists.
|Artist: Laurel Halo
Title: Behind the Green Door EP
Our rating: 8/10