Release Date: Oct 28, 2013
Record label: Hyperdub
Genre(s): Electronic, Indie Electronic, Dream Pop, Experimental Techno, Experimental Electronic
“The individual is inside of the other, and the other is inside of the individual, and these are three individuals…”– Jean-Luc Godard, Film Socialisme Fragmented and reconfigured is how Laurel Halo likes both her music and her presentation of self. Laurel, within the context of her discography, seems to always pander to an idea of a moment in time, herself in a time, not bound to history or prior contexts. This is especially true of Chance Of Rain, an astonishingly challenging album in every sense of the word; and for this, it is one of the most fascinating and beautiful things I have heard in years.
Quarantine, Laurel Halo's debut full-length, was a hugely accomplished record, hailed on this site and many others as one of the best albums of 2012. But the predominance of Halo's voice proved divisive. On Chance Of Rain, her second LP, she loses the vocals and lets her machines do the talking. It doesn't feel like a wholesale artistic reinvention, but it does show Halo edging away from the abstract nature of her early records towards something tougher and more immediate.Chance Of Rain maintains the techno trajectory of Behind The Green Door, her EP for Hyperdub from earlier this year.
Laurel Halo is either wildly fearless or wittingly self-sabotaging. After gaining a degree of acclaim for her 2010 debut EP, the Brooklyn, NY producer adopted the gender-bending moniker of King Felix for her follow-up before ditching her warm microhouse vibes for the metallic dissonance of 2012's Quarantine. On her second full-length, Halo continues to shed her digital skin, with Chance of Rain moving further into the ether, stripping away any semblance of twisted songcraft she may have been grasping onto.
Experimental electronic musician Laurel Halo is someone for whom electronic music offers endless possibilities for invention and distortion. Her work ever since she debuted with the bewitching techno of her earlier King Felix and Hour Logic EP’s has been characterised by shifts in persona, form, and a recurrent tension. While Halo’s music has always been electronic in form, the creation is very much human and organic.
Chance of Rain, Laurel Halo's second album, comes from a very different space to that of her debut. Quarantine, released last year, belonged on a plane somewhere between the virtual and real, exploring the intersection between man and machine. Halo played with the shared terminology of computer science and epidemiology, exploring a vision of the future in which cross contamination of viruses between computer networks and human populations is possible.
Chance of Rain hinges on contingencies. Its title works as a sly, suggestive joke, hinting at the storm that might come, if only Laurel Halo would let it. Instead, she spends the record zoning in on her music under the microscope, scrolling through it in fragments. If it feels less organic than Quarantine, which was driven by Halo’s vocals and an uncanny ability, on her part, to know exactly the right moment for them, it’s because it’s supposed to.
The chief talking point that emerged from Laurel Halo's excellent debut album, Quarantine, was Halo's decision to emphasize her vocals. It seemed a hard left turn for an artist who, through a spate of EPs, had practiced obfuscation, both in her music and in her public persona. Halo's releases since Quarantine can be read as a reaction to that album and its reception, as she has steadily retreated from that album's vocally oriented post-pop—and the transparent artistic agency that it implied—into the harsh instrumental strictures of techno.
During the first half of 2013, Laurel Halo followed Quarantine, a polarizing album placed at number one on The Wire's releases of the year feature for 2012, with her second and third releases for Hyperdub. First, there was "Sunlight on the Faded," an inviting vocal track, and then there was the Behind the Green Door, an alternately raw and oddly pacifying four-track EP of instrumentals. The latter pointed the way toward Chance of Rain, which doesn't seem to have any thematic continuity with Halo's gleaming Hour Logic highlight "Speed of Rain." The album could be shaped into an EP of steely, hard-hitting dancefloor techno, but it would require the stripping of several layers and the removal of so many twists and turns.
Though its title leaves room for doubt, Laurel Halo's sophomore effort, Chance of Rain, is indeed a murmuring storm of alluvial drones and steady percussive patter. There's a dusky, undeniable energy to the album's keen-eared kineticism and dubby rivulets of processed sound. It finds Halo evolving as an artist in leaps and bounds: Gone are the raw vocals and shiftless digital shimmer that made last year's Quarantine so immediate, subbed for various flavors of gritty IDM polyrhythms and fleet-footed effects.
Thanks to a career that’s meandered through synthpop, electronica and the odd bit of avant-garde techno, Michigan-born producer Laurel Halo has neatly avoided pigeonholing. Last year’s vocal-heavy ‘Quarantine’ felt like a leap towards a fully formed sound, but now ‘Chance Of Rain’ arrives to throw another new configuration into her sonic flux. The meditative ‘Ainnome’ zips by with a cinematic chug that thumps deeper with every replay, and the off-kilter judder of ‘Thrax’ builds and falls like a dizzying hallucination caught inside a Tetris puzzle.
There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to predict how you’ll feel about Laurel Halo’s latest release based on your opinion of her last one – Quarantine. Though it was something of a breakthrough record for the experimental electronic artist, Quarantine was nonetheless an incredibly divisive record if not for just one aspect – Halo’s vocals. Icy, unfiltered and unforgivingly ugly, Halo’s direct lyrics and uncomfortably bare voice provided an intensely jarring antithesis to the album’s dense digital landscapes, making it hard to ignore and even harder to not have a pretty clear opinion on.
Last time around, Laurel Halo's 2012 debut album Quarantine was a smart, slick echo chamber of science fiction landscapes and precision-engineered reflection, with lyrics cooly interrogating online demands for confession and personal display. While singing, especially on tracks like Quarantine's harrowing 'Years', Halo sounds like like the final girl in some splatter film who's all screamed and cried out and now has the post-adrenaline calm to dispatch whatever demons lurk in the bushes. It's a voice from a Betamax dream, like Debbie Harry's lips stretching out of the screen in Videodrome, but ghostly, not quite connecting, not breaking through.
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.
Only after she makes music, Laurel Halo explains in a recent interview with The Wire, do questions of identity come up, and on her second album her love for “feeling like a nonentity when I’m jamming or writing” rings especially true. Where on her debut LP Quarantine Halo voiced fear and claustrophobia with lyrics like you’re “you’re mad because I will not leave you alone” spoken by largely untreated vocals at the front of the mix, Chance of Rain is more impersonal, and as such its headspace is calmer and more reflective. Its instrumental tracks evolved from Halo’s live hardware performances.
Laurel Halo — Chance of Rain (Hyperdub)Confession time. Unlike many (most?), I failed to grasp the appeal of Laurel Halo’s highly-acclaimed Quarantine album last year. Which is not to say I disliked it, per se, it just left me nonplussed, which was all the more frustrating because I’d loved her earlier Hour Logic EP. I could definitely see the talent involved in Quarantine, but it just didn’t touch me the way it did others, which may be my own fault.