On her first full-length album, Quarantine, Laurel Halo gave us some of the dreamiest glitchy electro-pop you could ever hope to hear. Each synth key served as a soothing resting spot to lay down and gaze upon the swirling loops up above. “MK Ultra” felt like a love ballad being told in space to and from an unknown entity. If you’ve ever played the game Pokemon Snap, it’s basically the Mew level in musical form.
I refuse to apologize for my Pokemon fandom, so we’re all just gonna power through and move on to some more hard hitting Laurel Halo analysis.
Quarantine was a true beauty, but her more recent releases have shown that she is going for a denser sound, without any vocal accompaniment whatsoever. I personally think that’s a shame because her voice is amazing, but it adds a complexity in her songs that can be too much.
Chance of Rain, sees Laurel Halo replacing dreamy with dreary by amping up the glitch and incorporating it with a wider array of instruments, like when she splices up a somber bassoon solo on “Melt”. It’s a compact song, but the disorienting impact of it hits you immediately. The medley of sounds in “Melt” flashes by you in an instant. The juxtaposition of a melancholy piano riff playing over breakbeat drums on the eponymous track also works in such an imaginative way, almost as if a Jon Brion soundtrack is being remixed by Burial.
The expansiveness heard on Chance of Rain, makes it her most thoroughly detailed album to date. The pace is frantic and there’s so much jammed into every song that after each listen, there’s a new layer discovered. Her latest release, In Situ, offers a more stripped down approach, but with heavier sporadicism and drone friendliness. “Leaves” goes at a very steady pace, while also throwing conventional structure into the waste basket. At times, you might think someone gave a baby an 808 drum kit and let them play with it for a few minutes. None of us know for sure whether that’s true or not. We weren’t there. Throughout the album she takes what’s found in most songs of the genre and brings them back to their most primal form, like on “Nah.” Each tone is familiar, but never in such an isolated context.
Laurel Halo will continue to consistently experiment and play around in her own spectacular fashion. She’s an immensely talented electronic artist with an unlimited trove of ideas, so I expect her to do plenty more re-creation upon each release. Hopefully, she’ll bring her singing back into the equation at some point, but sometimes when you’re digging deep into the cavernous hole of avant-garde electronica, you need to save your voice.
And no, I’m not embarrassed about being an adult who still loves the occasional game of Pokemon. Charizard’s flame is what makes those New York winter nights all the more bearable.