For her forthcoming DJ-Kicks compilation coming late March, Laurel Halo contributes original track Sweetie that’s released as a single here. This is Halo in full techno mode, with the songs and singing of the recent Dust (2017) completely absent. Not to lament though, as songs vs. techno is win-win with Halo as she’s a deft hand at multiple styles of modern music.
Sweetie is a four-on-the-floor driving track with a steady kick drum underneath and off-setting hi-hat beats on top as the foundation. A bouncy gamelan-sounding melodic line flies overhead, as various claps and snaps of percussion dart in between the frames, creating a layered cake of moving sound. Later, an at-first shy synth line begins to intrude about a third of the way in, becoming bolder as the track progresses, as it plays around the structure in time but also dances to its own beat. A barely perceptible ambient wash appears at about vapour trail height to further the three-dimensional feel of the track.
Laurel Halo is one of those rare artists that excels on the classic songwriting front but also cranks out some damn interesting techno tunes. She has alternated these threads from the beginning, at first with several EPs of head-down techno, then a surprising detour to the highly-acclaimed song-based debut LP Quarantine (2012). Just when you thought she would move into songs for good based on Quarantine‘s success, she released the masterful techno odyssey Chance of Rain (2013), which was followed by a return back to her song-focused pop electronica album Dust. A new third strain is her down-tempo percussive workouts with master avant drummer Eli Keszler such as last year’s Raw Silk Uncut Wood. But Sweetie is a blissful return to her fine, spatially complex dance music she excels in.
These strengths in so many compositional modes should make for a fascinating release for her forthcoming DJ-Kicks album. Where will Laurel Halo take us next?