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"Chance of Rain"

Laurel Halo – Chance of Rain
25 October 2013, 12:30 Written by Nathan Comer

Laurel Halo’s 2012 album Quarantine thrust her vocals uncomfortably and beguilingly into the front of the mix. In turn, the record, a fiercely acclaimed debut by all accounts, thrust her artistic personality into attention. Chance of Rain sees Halo continue to delve deeper into the avant-techno displayed on her recent EPs Sunlight on the Faded and Behind the Green Door, rolling back the presence of her voice to instead examine icy beats and steamy ambience.

While she may be withdrawing her voice from her music, her musical language remains intact. We can still hear her exploratory attitude to analogue and digital synthesisers, as well as her deep musicality in front of a keyboard. This is beautifully evident on the two tracks that frame the album, “Dr Echt” and “-Out”. Each sample Halo’s evocative jazz-inflected keyboard playing, then minutely layered and manipulated them to leave us in doubt of whether we’re hearing a human or not. Similarly, mid-album interlude ‘Melt’ uses blankets of orchestrated pads and what is either a clarinet player manipulated to sound like a synth clarinet, or a synth clarinet made to sound like a human.

The rest of the album comprises a collection of more club-oriented tracks, documents of her transition from bedroom producer to much in-demand live performer. This live element is tangible – the relationship between the record and her semi-improvisatory sets are plainly audible in the energetic percussive jitter of “Oneirai”, each woodblock trigger feeling like the spontaneous result of crowd interaction, or on the incessant “Thrax”, where frantic sequencing never loses sight of the track’s beating heart.

Most interesting, however, is where the more ambient elements blend with the propulsive motion of the record. On “Serendip”, techno tropes persist, yet are underpinned by misty pads that sound like a chorus of distant traffic. Elsewhere, on the title track, bounding techno is married with more of Halo’s keyboard playing, tumbling on even as the club vacates. Music can be simultaneously both a collective and a very personal experience, and by drawing from the traditionally communal aesthetic of club music and the contemplative nature of ambient music, Halo explores the intersection between these modes of listening. Plainly speaking, this is psychedelic music, and it’s music that’s both moving and a pleasure to move to.

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