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Laurel Halo

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Laurel Halo is a recording artist carving out a visceral space in American electronic music. Her work reveals influence from the music of her home state of Michigan; in it techno, soul and outer electronics commute through a bleak, yet optimistic digital landscape. Drawn to the uncanny, unsettling elements become cathartic and sensual for Halo, while the physical process and impact of time are reoccurring motifs.

Following the release of two early EPs, Halo’s first record Hour Logic dropped in 2011; a dizzy take on

Laurel Halo is a recording artist carving out a visceral space in American electronic music. Her work reveals influence from the music of her home state of Michigan; in it techno, soul and outer electronics commute through a bleak, yet optimistic digital landscape. Drawn to the uncanny, unsettling elements become cathartic and sensual for Halo, while the physical process and impact of time are reoccurring motifs.

Following the release of two early EPs, Halo’s first record Hour Logic dropped in 2011; a dizzy take on deconstructed techno, it combined emphatic, glassy synth overtones with a sinister, sickly machine pulse. In addition to its Detroit sensibility, the record also channeled acid, motorik and synthetic psychedelia. Hour Logic received many end-of-year nods from publications including The Wire (#8 in their top 50 releases of 2011), FACT, The Quietus and Dummy.

Next came Quarantine, released in May 2012 on Kode9’s Hyperdub label, also to critical acclaim. With an intention “to portray a violence that isn’t immediately apparent,” Quarantine binds her past sounds into a toxic, lush blend of ambient suspension and disorienting detail. Halo’s melancholic vocals, at turns dry or digitally mangled, serve as psychic counterpoint to the placid, isolated nature of the sonic environments in which they’re situated. Lyrically the record is an excavation of memory and miscommunication; in revealing the slippery nature of language, Quarantine’s lyrics are a poignant reminder of the mind’s tendency to obscure and the body’s inability to forget.

“I think it’s completely impossible to be futuristic, although I aim for it,” Halo told The Wire in a recent interview. “I try to break down the black and white and allow contradictions to exist.” This year Halo’s first release under the pseudonym King Felix, the Spring 12”, came out on Mute sister label Liberation Technologies. Going forward she will continue to record under both names, releasing more abstract work as Laurel Halo, and dancefloor endeavors as King Felix.

While revered for her recordings, Halo is equally native on stage and has toured extensively across Europe and the United States. An adept improviser and soundsmith, her live sets are heavy, looming and aggressive; rhythms churn beneath walls of colorful synth, chaotic samples and noise; techno and house influences are brought to the fore, and commune with drifting, disorienting soundscapes. As Jon Caramanica of The New York Times has written, “she’s a sharp, and sometimes tantalizing performer who knows how to deploy wobble, drone and nervous energy in refreshing fashion.”