Laurel Halo: In Situ
Honest Jon’s Records (2015)
Remember back when Laurel Halo blew my mind with Quarantine after having my wisdom teeth removed under general anaesthetic? That record was so dreamy and weird, I was totally obsessed with it for a while. But her jazzed-out dance friendly follow up Chance of Rain didn’t excite me quite as much, so I approached In Situ with trepidation.
What a pleasant surprise to find Laurel reinvestigating the gloopy structures she’s so good at moulding. In Situ is another instrumental endeavour, and while its Nike Airmax are planted in the world of dance, its palette is built from the outer fringes of electronica and experimental music.
In Situ is stripped of all clutter, gone are the analogue samples, and despite being sparse its environment glows warm. The bulging bass line and anxious high hats on Situation scream Drum n’ Bass and Grime, but the track is pretty much un-danceable. Nebenkirkungen enters the fray on little more than a low-end throb and miscellaneous ambience before blossoming into a complex array of percussive ticks and damaged chimes that’s claustrophobic more than euphoric.
Readers may have read about the ‘altercation’ between Steve Albini and Powell this week, with the grumpy old master of guitar abrasion and offensiveness essentially calling dance and electronic music over-manufactured and inconsequential. I understood what Albini was getting at, but I also think the guy was showing his age a bit. Electronica, and even dance music has evolved so far beyond its original incarnation. Artists like Laurel Halo have a knack for making electronica that ‘feels’ while pushing way beyond the genre’s tropes.
In reality artists like Powell, Russell Haswell and Pete Swanson along with Halo (to name a few) are making music that’s way more experimental and in your face than most dudes with a guitar these days (ahem, Albini). Check out In Situ for a glimpse of what I mean.