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Album Review

Laurel Halo, one of the more fascinating electronic music producers to emerge in the 2010s, follows two EPs for Hippos in Tanks with an album for Hyperdub. Lest there be any doubt as to whether there is a fit, the album's title is Quarantine and its first track is titled "Airsick" — no one would be surprised if labelhead Kode9 issued productions of his own with those exact titles. This sprawling but of-a-piece release, ideal at 40 minutes in length, is significantly less beat-driven than King Felix and Hour Logic. Just as significant, none of Halo's singing is as conventionally melodic as her contribution to Games' (aka Ford & Lopatin) "Strawberry Skies." She uses considerably less echo, yet a type of effect is usually in effect — whether through layering or drastic manipulation. She occasionally thrusts her voice to the fore, as she does over synthetic-streak FX and probing drones on "Years"; the manner in which she sings "You're mad because I will not leave you alone" is unsettling to the point of being confrontational. The affected quivering quality that she often uses recalls the "fourth world" sound of trumpet player Jon Hassell, especially when it dovetails with her queasy synthesizer textures. Most perturbing/entrancing is "Carcass," where thick sequencer burbling (reminiscent of early Tangerine Dream) and lightly searing noise dip in and out as Halo's heavily treated, inhuman voice creaks and trembles. The sparse, stupefying ballad "Light + Space" is the "Ghosts" (Japan) of its time — and an unexpectedly moving finale. As oddly gruesome as its Makoto Aida artwork, Quarantine is the addictive soundtrack to some kind of science fiction nightmare.


Born: Ann Arbor, MI

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s, '10s

Inspired by Steve Reich, Detroit techno, a six-month stint in Thailand, and science fiction, Laurel Halo crafts lush, electronic avant pop that is as theoretical as it is playful. An Ann Arbor, Michigan native and Brooklyn resident, Halo began playing piano at age six and added guitar and violin to her repertoire while still a child. However, she didn't begin composing until she was 19, using not only the classical theory of her childhood but her fascination with translating geometric shapes like...
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Quarantine, Laurel Halo
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