Electro Feminisms: The Hyperreal Ambience of Laurel Halo
One of the more interesting women making electronic music lately is Laurel Halo. Halo has the distinct whiff of virtuoso about her, having spent time as a classical pianist, in orchestras, in improv noise collectives, on college radio. Her King Felix EP released last year was a strange concoction of mutant pop, classic '80s sounding synthpop production worked through a shoegaze haze of ethereal heavily reverbed vocals. The effect is by turns serene and discomforting, even occasionally discordant.
One of the standouts was the choral "Coriolis." The ghosts of dreampop favorites like the Cocteau Twins or Slowdive undoubtedly linger; the machine has become haunted.
I've been fortunate enough to procure a copy of her new EP Hour Logic (forthcoming June 21st on Hippos in Tanks) which is a further twist in Halo's evolving body of work. Where King Felix relied heavily on Halo's vocals, here she often reduces the vocals to just a murmur, slicing them up to mere microsamples. The '80s influences are largely gone, with IDM, minimal techno and Can emerging as key touchstones.
Opener "Aquifer" features an arpeggiated synth for a percussion, and swirling synths that sound almost animalistic. "Constant Index" showcases Halo's signature choral vocals, but through such a midrange haze it is difficult to make out individual words. It's hard not to wonder if she's deconstructing the idea of voice itself, steadily backing away from the eccentric pop music of King Felix into ambient difficult listening. The press release describes the EP as "hyper-real ambience," which is as good a description as any—there is no real sense of the natural here. Instead we have a super-abundance of plush, even sometimes sickly, synth pads, web 2.0 ambient.
It's not easy listening, and if you're looking for pop thrills, then this latest EP is the wrong place. But I'm definitely intrigued by Laurel Halo, and impressed by her willingness to take risks and evolve as an artist.
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