Laurel Halo – Quarantine

This is the sound of someone who has found their feet; Quarantine is extremely arresting in both the way that Halo sets out her vision and the contradictions that listening to it presents.

 

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Golly mick what a cover - a drawing depicting a bunch of young Japanese girls committing Harakiri – guts and innards and blood. It’s pretty arresting. The record is damned good and just as strange too: a beautiful mash of poppy soundscapes, atmospheric beats and stretched ambient moments. By stretched I mean it feels as if the sound has been squeezed, compressed, bent out of shape, the sounds are fractured, and dependent on some kind of artificial, hothouse atmosphere to survive.

The voice is high in the mix, sometimes warped, melting into the music like plastic. Years and Thaw and the marvellous closing track Light and Space, are malformed, sometimes annoying pop bubbles driven by some very strange and almost deliberately grating and “unformed” vox. Joy sounds like some ersatz celestial choir has been roped in to lend form to the bubbling electronic undercurrents, whereas MK ULTRA sounds like an alien weather forecast. Some of the instrumentals, like Nerve and Wow are gloopy trippy experiments in stretched sound that make you wonder what their purpose is outside of existing in their rarefied bubble… And Carcass sounds like the perfect pop for a gaming arcade – actually, pop made by slot machines would be a more apt description, whereas Holoday is a sound of an escaped radio flicking through its own dial and trying to find somewhere to rest.

Laurel Halo is some artist and we liked her EP, Hour Logic, which was strange in a different kind of way but not as, well… special as this LP. This is the sound of someone who has found their feet; Quarantine is extremely arresting in both the way that Halo sets out her vision and the contradictions that listening to it presents. The conceit that this LP could be made by "sentient" machines is never far away (my suspicions are raised by the way Tumor just breaks down at the end) but then, what really gives this record its edge is the fact that her voice doesn’t sound as if it’s been modulated or morphed in any way. The flat notes are left for all to hear. So whilst Quarantine feels as if it’s been subject to all sorts of sonic gymnastics, the result paradoxically is that of a delicate, fragile sound that needs all your attention.

Well worth your time and once you conquer your bemusement you should really like this music.