London electronic label Hyperdub will always have its place in history as a home to numerous driving forces behind the left-field UK electronica and urban dance music of the 2000s, and while it the name “Hyperdub” may not be as synonymous with “the most revolutionary of club music”, it has hardly faded into obscurity, with a number of veterans and newer artists keeping the label fresh and relevant (if not quite as ubiquitous as it once was).
Front and center among these Hyperdub protégés lies Laurel Halo, an American producer from Michigan whose sonic signature tends towards dreamy electronic pop music almost as often as it does hardened Detroit Techno. She was extremely prolific during the first half of the decade, releasing a slew of critically acclaimed albums and EPs before progressively slowing her pace to just one proper release every few years. With two years having passed since her last release of any kind, and twice as many since her last proper album, new material does not come unexpected; new material coming without any prior announcement however, ended up being a welcome surprise.
Halo’s new track, “Jelly,” has just been surprise-released by Hyperdub, complete with its own surreal minimalistic music video of 3D strings of floating text, and featuring the talents of Iranian alternative R&B artist Lafawndah and Los Angeles experimental pop producer Klein. The track brings with it the announcement of a new album from Laurel Halo, “Dust”, to be released on June 23.
With this being our only glimpse of Laurel Halo’s intended direction for her new album, and given her historical propensity for frequent stylistic shifts and variations, perhaps it is too early to conceptualize what a new Laurel Halo record will sound like, but if “Jelly” ends up being at all indicative of the album as a whole, it would seem her career is starting to come full circle.
The first thing older Laurel Halo fans may notice about “Jelly” is the return of Halo’s voice; while her singing was present in some of her earlier work, Halo’s more recent outings have been largely instrumental affairs. The music video seems aware of this, with it consisting in its entirety of what appears to be a full lyric transcription of the song, laid out along a single massive Mobius strip. As Laurel begins to sing, although her voice maintains the airy dreamlike quality it always has, it is no longer floating over equally airy ambient soundscapes (as it did throughout her earlier vocal-centric work), but rather is interwoven with the more beat-based, dance-adjacent experimental techno that has been dominating her more recent creations. Although where those creations (such as her last LP, “Chance of Rain”) paid heavy homage to Detroit Techno (in all its steady mechanical polish) such that each track followed a predictable (yet invariably hypnotic) rhythmic pattern, “Jelly” seems inclined to drift.
This is a rhythmically very interesting track; at times it feels in line with the modern UK bass scene, at others it resembles footwork, and often it exists simply in a tasteful formlessness of scattered drum sample hits and layered vocals. Wherever the track decides to go, it is very distinctly Laurel Halo, but it successfully culls together enough disparate influences to remain exciting and unpredictable, even as it becomes more and more calmly hypnotizing, making one subtly eager for more to come.
Pre-order “Dust” here from Bleep (all pre-orders come with a free download of “Jelly”)
Album release scheduled for June 23, 2017