Laurel Halo makes slippery music. Throughout the Hyperdub producer’s catalogue of restless electronic compositions there persists an ungraspable quality: whenever you feel, whether on the early techno experimentations as King Felix or on last year’s vocal-led Quarantine LP, that you’d really found something to hold onto, it slips through your fingers. In many ways, this constant mutability, this defiant middle finger to generic expectations, makes Laurel Halo’s music challenging, at times inaccessible. Yet the tricky productions are so becoming of the producer’s recurring themes – paranoia, individual agency, the relationship between man and machine, systems and viruses – that each release feels not difficult but brave. When news came that Halo’s latest, around six months after her club-driven Behind The Green Door EP, did away with the vocals which served as an anchor on Quarantine, we could have feared a disconnect, an isolation in a mist of alien noise. Yet given her superb track record to date, a sense of trust and an abandonment of preconceptions is all that’s necessary to feel rewarded by Chance of Rain. A demanding album then, but a ruthlessly thrilling one.
In the mould of a true sonic explorer, Halo’s sound cannot be tied down. A nervous energy pervades A Change Of Rain, whose generic touchstones shift from Warp-style IDM to outsider house distortion, from hypnagogic experimentation to drowned club music. Many take their shape as fleshed-out versions of Halo’s live experimentations, a fact which only enhances the relentless unpredictability of this musical suite. The longer tracks mostly take the shape of percussive exercises, yet each is impressively singular. Oneiroi is as dreamlike as its name suggests: a quivering field of largely unidentifiable sounds jostle for attention, leaving the listener adrift and vulnerable, only able to latch onto the occasional clean woodblock or vocal distortion. Serendip takes shape with a foggy techno pulse, a warbling bassline left to wander beneath the mist, while later the abrasive Thrax adds a boiling dose of acid to stuttering drum patterns.
Still in these harsher numbers a softness persists: the emotive chords that occupy Thrax’s final minutes, or the jazzy piano which dissipates the tension built over Chance Of Rain’s angular workout. These melodies take the listener to curious emotional terrain, discomforting rather than tranquil given their placement in such harsh environments. These organic instrumental moments, whether on the piano pieces which bookend the album or stirring mid-point Melt, which moves from soaring strings to a single isolated wind instrument, distil the broader ambiguity left in the wake of A Change Of Rain. Here, Laurel Halo leaves the listener with an anxious album which trades abrasion for serenity at a moment's notice, an endlessly unpredictable collection of music. It may take some work to truly get to grips with her latest, and even then a specific emotion or idea may slip through your fingers, but the only thing that won’t elude your grasp will be this record’s quality, and it's composer's singular vision.
|Artist: Laurel Halo
Title: Chance Of Rain LP
Tracklist01. Dr. Echt02. Oneiroi03. Serendip04. Chance Of Rain05. Melt06. Still/Dromos07. Thrax08. Ainnome09. -Out
Our rating: 7.5/10