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28 January 2016

Laurel
Halo: In Situ (Honest Jon’s)

Laurel
Halo’s latest surfaced with a murmur, and the music inside feels
appropriately understated compared to some of her flashier moments.
She’s been steadily working and advancing as an electronic producer
for several years now, and In Situ feels like an organic evolution of
her studio know-how along with some genuine curiosity and tinkering.
Like Chance of Rain before it (2013), In Situ lacks any vocals from
Halo. It’s a curious move on her part, because more often than not it
seems like electronic projects evolve from tracky production to
song-writing territory, but Halo interestingly tends to fall closer
to the former. This is not because she’s incapable; most of 2012’s
Quarantine focused on her voice and felt more lyrical in more ways
than one. In Situ instead has a lower key quality to it, small in
scale but nervous and fidgety in vibe. Halo has a knack for detailed
syncopation and rhythm, and the evidence is all over In Situ.
“Nebenwirkungen” is a case in point, with its kicks and snaps
flitting in and out of one another while a sort of disembodied
gamelan keeps busy overhead.

Similarly, “Drift” has a nervous
energy about it without ever diving into a four-to-the-floor kick the
way Chance for Rain often did, with an insistent knock-knocking of
its wooden kick that propels it forward, and this same jumpiness
carries through many other cuts as well, in a way that feels like a
sort of skimming off the dance music Halo often references in an even
more oblique way. However, it still comes through on a cut like
“Shake,” whose filtered claps may come and go but still feel
anchored in conventional dance music more than most of its
percolating arrangement. As is often the case for Halo, In Situ is
not a long album, running just over 35 minutes over eight tracks, one
of which is a brief interlude, but as with most good ideas, it’s
perhaps best contained in such a concise way.

“Focus I” is the
payoff of all of it, though, an eight-plus-minute sprawl of electric
piano improv and rolling waves of glitchy beats. It has a lateral
jazz crossover in a way not unlike Ricardo Villalobos and Max
Loderbauer’s recent album as Vilod, grounded by electric piano but
with a structure and vibe that feels jazz in spirit rather than sonic
palette. It may be an oblique step forward in Halo’s repertoire, but
I admire and enjoy her curiosity for experimentation and enthusiasm
in finding new ways to explore syncopation and rhythm without
becoming inaccessible.

Buy it: Honest Jon’s | Boomkat | Bleep | iTunes | Amazon

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