Laurel Halo, the American-born producer, musician, and DJ, has released four dissimilar studio albums since 2012, which move briskly from experimental pop, through minimal techno, to evergreen-ambient textures. Her avant-garde technique remains steadfast. To alter the properties of sound by tinkering with the roles that voice, machines and wide open spaces can play in modern music. The last two solo records, Raw Silk Uncut Wood for Latency and Dust for Hyperdub, used ambient noise-electronic or classically informed-as a function to either meditate by or move to.
So don't get flummoxed when you witness her wringing and twisting the bejesus out of the sixty-eighth edition of the DJ-Kicks mix series, on which Halo expertly shuffles musical microclimates like a card shark elbow greasing a three card molly hustle.
Presenting 29 tracks in 60 minutes (DAMN), she drags friends, unknown artists, and leftfield thinkers to walk through this door with her. Like a car mechanic dying to use EVERY tool in the garage, the amalgam captures a specific eagerness: with tempo, dressed in polychromatic tones, throttling past our eyes and ears. Halo, caters the style of the mix to the terrain of the song. Manoeuvring through fierce arpeggios, ruff bass lines, space-age micro-house, and machine-like landscapes.
It's always the exclusive tracks on these mixes that paints a Venn diagram of whom the curator is choosing to share the spotlight with. So championing the swirly heaviness of Rrose, the 128 bpm peak time physicality of Machinewoman or the Tetris-like pressure of ‘Penny Rut’ by FIT Siegel adds insider info to this high-speed delivery system.
But taking a step back, it becomes simple. This entire patchwork advances in suites. Songs plucked to work as an interwoven collective, become instruments. Yes, the concept of the DJ-Kicks series should always do that. But Halo, wielding this polychromatic light, never really emphasises where one song ends and another starts... things stay fluid... into and out of one another during this entire 60-minute conversation.
It's only the blissed-out half time deconstructions, which link the 4/4 driven segments, that offer breathing space. In those post-Drexciya, liquid pressurised moments, things creep gently. Dreamlike. And just as we catch our breath, BOOM. Halo is off again, hustling forward through tribal notions, cavernous Berlinesque stretches and finally vocal environs where the music starts to smile through a Chicago house swing.
Damn that DJ made my day.