"An arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds"
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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Mistress of Atemporality


Music that, even as it presents, recalls days of futuristic past, from electronic apparat-chick Laurel Halo. Her breakthrough release came last year with the King Felix ep, a set of textured futuristic art-pop songs that elicited a riot of refs from Kate Bush and Bjork to Oneohtrix Point Never, Animal Collective and Pet Shop Boys. Boomkat had it that “Her music is suspended in an ethereal alter zone equally informed by 4AD dreamspaces, immersive video game soundtracks and hypnagogic Pop, essentially three elements which form much of the best Knew-Pop around and makes for the most deliriously effective form of Pop escapism we've encountered in a long time.” Her latest, Hour Logic, though, is a quite different (techno) animal, with the pop dropped in favour of a sound with more of a 90s ambient techno revenant quality.



Hour Logic by Hippos In Tanks

Head by Hippos In Tanks

AQUIFER - HOUR LOGIC EP - 2011 by LAUREL HALO



Simon Reynolds recently wrote of 21st century pop music’s strange “atemporality” - a term appropriated from techno-crits like William Gibson and Bruce Sterling used in a NY Times piece to point “the disconcerting absence of contemporaneity” in today’s popular culture. Not the first time Intelligent Poststructuralist Musico-criticism (IPM) has taken and tweaked concepts from cultural theory, cf. the play with the recontextualising of Derrida’s ‘hauntology’ and all that jazz. Reynolds’ concern is that there seems to be nothing unique about popular music today driving the tradition forward, that it's stuck in stylistics, rehashing past sounds lately rendered ubiquitously present via technology like YouTube and iTunes, where much of popular music history is on instant/constant stream; the best music has been able to do in the first decade of the 21st century is indulge that technology to ramp up pop that we already knew musically.

Now your LMYE scribe here comes not to praise Reynolds nor to bury him, but to hang Laurel Halo’s music on this handy conceptual hook with accompanying agent-provocation: if this 'ere atemporality malarkey results in music this ramped up with energy and ideas, then frankly, my dear, do we give a damn about originality*? (*a dubious construct anyway - see Benjamin and Barthes, if you can be academically arsed). And Reynolds himself has succumbed to the Halo effect anyway, as this, from August 2011’s The Wire will testify:





More or less simultaneously comes Antenna, on NNA Tapes: “This cassette-only release is something of a sidestep for already diverse New York-based producer Laurel Halo. The seven tracks on offer are stripped completely of the haunting vocals that characterised last year’s King Felix EP, and are far more freeform than anything on this month’s beat-driven follow-up, Hour Logic. The tape is, essentially, Laurel indulging and exploring the more ambient ends of her influences, composing tracks entirely out of churning atmospherics, lo-fi synth drones and heavy reverb effects.”

01 IMPULSE - ANTENNA - 2011 by LAUREL HALO

03 ZOO HYPOTHESIS - ANTENNA - 2011 by LAUREL HALO

04 HEURISTIC GAG FACTOR - ANTENNA - 2011 by LAUREL HALO



KING FELIX EP - HIPPOS IN TANKS - 2010 by LAUREL HALO

Moving on, the artist known to her Mum as Ina Cube has had a deal of exposure around some of the more thinking musico-cultural sites, e.g. The Guardian and The Quietus). Ms Cube certainly isn’t in the business of resting on her Laurels, or relying on the Halo effect, as can be seen by the number of mixes she’s been putting out, like this one for FACT magazine.



Then there’s this recent assemblage in the oki-ni Mix Series.


There’s also Laurel Halo’s Warmer Climes (mixtape). And you can also listen to a Laurel Halo remix by Actress via The Wire.

And for those who fancy some visuals...








Before blogpost closedown, One Very Important Thought occurred to your LMYE correspondent in a Reynolds Returnal in re: his Retromania thesis. You’ll recall the book explores a crucial question not just for pop kidz but for popular culture, and for our society in general, viz. are we already living in the "future" and just endlessly recycling the past? There are many who will concur, being inclined, for all the speed-things-go net-fuelled techno-ramping up, to see the last 10-15 years of music as lacking genuine innovation and new paradigms. That said, our critical cultural hipster seems ambivalent, as, for all that he documents it as if it were a form of malaise, he seems pretty enthusiastic about (even a fan of) the musical fall-out of atemporality (cf. his musings on Old New Age, as well as many others on his blog).

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