Laurel Halo 'Dust' (Hyperdub)
Conceived and recorded with a range of co-collaborators, Laurel Halo’s fourth album, ‘Dust’, began taking shape in 2015 during a stint at the Experimental Media And Performing Arts Centre in New York. Evaluating Halo’s music can feel like a task fraught with danger, not least because the kind of words you’d associate it with (‘deconstructive’, ‘experimental’) suggest it would be a tough listen. And yet that’s far from the case with ‘Dust’. One of its core ingredients is deep, mood-laden house, but – this being Laurel Halo – her variant’s had a scalpel taken to it. Take ‘Sun To Solar’, which would thrill Arthur Russell: it’s abstract house with a tumbling time structure, all stretched, skewed and decorated with looping organ skirls that give it a devotional quality, and dotted with fragmented, improv-style vocals. While ‘Dust’ is Halo’s most vocal-heavy oting yet, it’s far from conventional. Her sweet, breathy tones are delivered in snatches, and often verge on the indecipherable.
On ‘Jelly’, she adopts a robotic vibrato and spreads it over ping-pong beats, elegantly unfurling congas and off-kilter handclaps, with the gauzy, woozy house of both Francis Harris and Lobster Theremin associate Grant obvious references. ‘Do U Ever Happen’, meanwhile, with its jazzy vibes, jittery live percussion and ska-like beat slowed to a murmur, is one of the most beautiful pieces of work Halo has ever produced. It’s all part of the immersive, frequently moving, absorbing experience that is ‘Dust’. Stephen Worthy