12 November 2013

Laurel Halo - Chance Of Rain

Oh I do love a good and very strange artwork to an album, and I think I can safely say that this artwork is the most messed up one I have seen this year (it is also the most fantastic that I have seen as well).  The first I saw of this release was in the hipster magazine The Wire.  As I have noted before, I find the magazine to be a little pretentious, and I tend to buy it for the CD which is on the cover, but I do read the articles and I have to admit they are well written, but it does have a whiff of elitism which I find hard to shake and have the overwhelming urge to place the magazine in a brown paper bag.  The lead article this month was on American electronic artist Laurel Halo, I can safely say that I had not heard any of her work and only had a well written article and a picture of this cover on an advert to go on for guidance.  This is the second release by classically trained musician and was released in October 2013.  So, looking into something I have no idea of what it sounds like just because I like the cover and heard about it in a hipster magazine; sounds like a normal day in the park to me......

Starting with atmospheric opener "Dr. Echt" which gives way to the more aggressive orb-esque "Oneiroi" you will find no better example of modern electronic music. The pulse and noises come from all over the place, it is like being attacked from the moment you press play; it is constant and unforgiving. It reminds me of Robert Logan and Aphex Twin in places and for the beginning of an album to have such a confrontational introduction is just the sort of thing that once heard makes perfect sense.  Starting off with a statement of intention and keep on going from there.  As the song fades we are invited to hear "Serendip"; starting off with a simple beat and adding layer after layer till you lose focus on the original beat and it sounds like a heart beating faster and faster, then the background starts to build until it overcomes the ongoing rhythmical beginnings and becomes more like a machine, the sounds move from the left to the right and feel like they are all around you. They this an early 90's feel to this track, but I also have vision of 70's era dark beats going on and industrial flavourings as well.  It is not comfortable, it is not easy but by the deity is it rewarding.

Next is the title track of the album which has an almost tribal start, a breaking snare which snaps your attention and floating harmonics which are just on in the background to entice you into this world a little further. I love the little break that comes in a the two and a half minute mark, it just takes you away from what was going and to build you back up again, but it has an off-key piano section going on which makes you feel so uncomfortable; but because it is there it makes this track all the more beautiful, I love the deconstruction that goes on, you are not allowed to dwell on the LFO-type moments too long as you do not know what is going to come - it just keeps changing and making everything even more amazing for it.  "Melt" is the next slice which is brought up, and it is one of the albums shorter moments (if you discount "Dr. Echt" and "-Out" which bookmark this album).  Starting which that noise which make the mind awake in an instant, this could be the sound of an office gone mad, it feels like you in a nightmare of sound till the light comes in, but don't be fooled into thinks you are safe, because the nightmare comes again; a amazing as a broken mirror in the sun.

Then we are introduced to "Still/Dromos" keeps the tempo on planet insanity, starting with a fast rhythm but it does not want to go anywhere fast.  You are expecting an attack, but it is all noises to distract you with a slight of hand production that would fool most people. If I am honest with this track it was not as good as the others before hand, but just because this not as good as some exceptional electronic that has gone beforehand does not mean this is a poor track, it is very good, just a little bit too unfocused to be anything memorable.  But I have still not been allowed to make myself at home on this record.  If anything, it is still pushing and fighting all the way to the bitter end. On route to that ending we have "Thrax" which starts off with an almost bouncy noise set, but as with everything else here, you know it is going to change and what a change it is.  I found this track to remind me of places I have been when listening to Nurse With Wound and again LFO.  This album will not be for the weak at heart as far as electronic music is concerned and this track is the heart of the work for me, it just showcases what this is all about. The final track before the end is "Ainnome" which is another seven minute lesson in the lower regions of pain and noise that this album seems to thrive on.  Starting with an almost angelic start, I am soon confronted with a repeat series on harsh beats and noises that keep the mind moving onwards till the starkly quite ending that is "-Out", the mirror twin of "Dr. Echt" which again has undertones of dischord which you could not fail to miss.

This is not a record for relaxing to, you could not unwind to it, you could not drive the car to it, you could not push weights to it (unless you were Popeye), you can only be confronted by it and it demands your attention, it demands that you give it nothing but all that you are and it will give you nothing but its own fractured beauty.  If I have not painted a vivid enough picture here then you will need to head into the album and feel the world as seen my Laurel Halo.  Not one word on the album, but I feel like I have been put through the emotional wars.  For an album I only wanted to listen to because I liked the cover, it has delivered such an experience that I feel relieved that it is over and I cannot wait to hear it again. As disturbing as the artwork is, you will find something equally disturbing underneath and also mesmerising - beautifully ugly.

8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart

You can purchase the album from Amazon

You can visit the Laurel Halo website/tumbir here

You can listen to the album on Spotify here

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