Laurel Halo Behind the Green Door EP
Laurel Chartow's work as Laurel Halo tends to land between the accessible and the abstract, the spacey and the confrontational. Although very few of her tracks are specifically aimed at DJs, the New York-based artist has acknowledged dance music's influence on her work, citing an early trip to DEMF (she grew up outside of Detroit, in Ann Arbor) as a formative experience. Chartow had an eventful 2012, marked most of all by the release of Quarantine, her debut LP of virtually beatless, ambient avant-pop. She also released Spring, her first truly dancefloor-oriented EP, under the moniker King Felix, as well as the "Sunlight on the Faded," a single which combined her vocal stylings with overt references to juke and drum & bass. Chartow is adept at balancing these interests over the course of a song or record, but Behind the Green Door, her latest EP, continues with the trend of compartmentalizing.
As far as the artist's catalog is concerned, Behind the Green Door falls closest to her work as King Felix. There are no vocals on any of its four tracks (other than some brief snippets on "Sex Mission"), and Chartow's typically lush synth arrangements are considerably pared down throughout. While some of its rhythms verge on unwieldy IDM territory, it seems pretty evident that the EP is aimed at, or at least heavily influenced by, the dancefloor. The stuttering "Throw" takes on frenetic bass music, but employs jangling, churchlike keys instead of the genre's typical neon synthlines. "UHFFO" moves with a confident step, as well. Rippling, micro-processed clicks and unsteady, wide-mouthed synth bursts give the tune its highlights before calming pads subdue its final section. "NOYFB" seems to slip in and out of dissonance, as warning signals chop up icy chimes and a sputtering, tom-led rhythm. As its title hints, "Sex Mission" is the most boisterous piece on the EP, riding in on bass drums that aim straight for the gut. Laurel Halo ramps up her track's velocity with relentlessly filtered hi-hats and smudges of glowing stabs, developing a series of squeaky arpeggios as it progresses. Like the other cuts, "Sex Mission" has an eerie sense of cleanness to it, one that ties in with its producer's interest in stifling spaces like airports.
Still, at this point, Chartow's more restrained "techno" work has not quite caught up to the heights of her hybrid pieces—with the exception of tracks like "Head" and "Hour Logic," on which her embrace of full-bodied excess resembles a beautifully tangled web of crossed lines. Behind the Green Door is no less contemporary, but it occupies a more unnerving space, mimicking a machine's automated blinking underneath Hour Logic's grandiose telecom psychedelia.
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