Available on: Hippos in Tanks LP

After the skewed, non-standard pop songs of her last EP King Felix, Laurel Halo’s six-track Hour Logic is a marked departure in style and approach. Largely ignoring vocals and rigid structures, Halo siezes instead the provocative digital sludge explored in her most recent NNA Tapes cassette release Antenna and runs with it in a direction few would have expected.

Essentially, Hour Logic sounds most reminiscent of the ambient material found in late-’80s-to-early-’90s hardcore, extrapolated into full songs. However, rather than following generic build-and-drop step structures, Halo lets the content guide itself, building from small points, gathering momentum while flowing everywhere, percussion reapplied to a collaborative, rather than leading role.

Three tracks in particular embrace this style: ‘Aquifier’ high end twitters with bird-like gestures, drifting glassy pads and synthesized vox, underpinned by a persistent, spasming auto-filtered motif. Title track ‘Hour Logic’ builds upon a similar character, with its restrained thumping 4/4 rhythm and understated hissing acid bassline merely periodic elements within a larger, pulse-driven exploration of ambient tension. ‘Speed Of Rain’ then inverts this approach by using more overt jungle references for the drums, within smatterings of New Age bell tones and further crystalline clouds, but only producing “dance music” signifiers in fleeting moments.

Elsewhere, these same elements are explored with a different pallette. ‘Constant Index’ is more familiar territory of the scene Halo is part of, similar in pace and atmosphere to Gatekeeper, her largely incomprehensible, durational vocals adding an extra dramatic, hair-raising quality to the bruised Kraut production. ‘Head’ is an exciting, ugly nest of fidgeting static gestures held down with an intense quiet pulse, and layers of harmonic drones that, while remaining largely submerged, are prone to resurfacing and collapsing at any given moment. Finale ‘Strength In Free Space’ rounds off the record with a beatless, smeared haze of synthesized string-like pads and long, lilting vocalisations over a tense, reedy modal harmony and percussion, whose beat, while extremely quiet, is impossible to ignore.

Hour Logic is a release that sounds distinctly familiar, yet totally individual, and in this sense it really is a triumph. Similar to the early “acid” works of Plaid and “house” of Unique 3, Laurel Halo is taking an idea of what dance music is, but completely personalising it into something only vaguely resembling it, whether intentionally or not. Reminiscent in many ways to classical music in its orchestration and arrangement, as well as sheer amount of content per track, Laurel Halo is attempting things that very few others are right now. It is daring, it won’t be to everyone’s tastes, and some who do enjoy it may prefer this purely as listening material. However Hour Logic is a genuine antithesis to orderly club tracks that can still manage to work with and alongside them, if DJs are willing to give it the chance and explore the possibilities.

Steve Shaw



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