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Laurel Halo

Laurel Halo forges a unique path as a composer, producer, musician, DJ, and educator invested in experimental composition, cutting-edge club music, and askew pop. The native Ann Arborite's interest in the dancefloor innovations of Detroit and London, as well as those of Berlin, one of her temporary home bases, was displayed on early efforts like the 2011 EP Hour Logic. Quarantine, her dystopian full-length debut for Hyperdub, revealed her avant-pop side and was named the number one release of 2012 by The Wire magazine. Following the instrumental abstractions of 2013's Chance of Rain and 2015's double EP In Situ, Halo combined the approach of those two recordings with that of her first LP in making 2017's disorienting and occasionally joyous Dust. Halo further explored gradations of sparse and isolated ambient music with her score for the film Possessed and the subsequently recorded Raw Silk Uncut Wood, 2018 projects that led to Atlas, her fifth proper album and first for her own Awe label, launched in 2023. A classically trained musician, Halo learned to play piano, guitar, and violin while growing up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She began composing when she was 19, drawing from the sounds she heard at Detroit dance parties, her time in free jazz ensembles, and her stint as a free-form DJ at the University of Michigan's radio station WCBN, as well as classes in classical theory. She released several EPs from 2006 to 2009, including The Future Fruit and 2009's Ambrosia. After moving to New York, she issued 2010's King Felix EP, which was released by Hippos in Tanks -- also home to GAMES, Hype Williams, and d'Eon -- and inspired by Philip K. Dick's novel VALIS. The techno-leaning Hour Logic EP appeared on the label in 2011, while NNA Tapes issued her ambient cassette Antenna. She also collaborated with David Borden, James Ferraro, Sam Godin, and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) for the drone album FRKWYS 7, on Rvng Intl. Halo's breakthrough album and Hyperdub debut, the disquieting, vocal-heavy Quarantine, arrived in May 2012 and was hailed most prominently by The Wire. The single "Sunlight on the Faded" appeared near the year's end. Halo moved to Berlin in 2013 and returned with two releases, the techno EP Behind the Green Door and the full-length Chance of Rain, which combined jazz-inspired experimental techno and musique concrète tracks. Halo also maintained her passion for radio, hosting a monthly broadcast on Berlin Community Radio and making guest mixes for WNYC, BBC Radio, and Rinse FM. She moved briefly to Honest Jon's for 2015's In Situ, a double EP of more introverted -- but still experimental -- dubwise tracks. That year, she also worked with Julia Holter, Rashad Becker, NHK'Koyxen, and others as part of Terepa, whose self-titled EP featured the results of long-distance recording sessions where the artists avoided communicating with each other outside of any telepathic capabilities they might have. Halo also contributed a version of Karen Dalton's "Blue Notion" to Remembering Mountains, a collection of interpretations of the folk icon's lost lyrics. In 2016, a collaboration between Halo and virtual pop star Hatsune Miku debuted at Berlin's HKW and London's Barbican. The following year, Halo released Dust, her third Hyperdub album. Unlike her first two albums for the label, it wasn't made in solitude. Recorded during a two-year period at Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) in Troy, New York, it featured contributions from several instrumentalists and vocalists, including Julia Holter and Lafawndah. Halo then contributed the original soundtrack for the hybrid fiction-documentary film Possessed, an outgrowth of which was the instrumental album Raw Silk Uncut Wood, featuring contributions from cellist Oliver Coates and percussionist Eli Keszler. The latter was released by the French label Latency in 2018. Also that year, Halo collaborated with techno producer Hodge on the EP Tru/Opal/The Light Within You, issued by Livity Sound. Halo's first commercially released mix, an installment of !K7's long-running DJ-Kicks series, arrived in 2019. The Possessed soundtrack was released commercially in 2020 through The Vinyl Factory, shortly after which Halo began a monthly DJ residency on NTS Radio, naming her program Awe. In 2021, Halo collaborated with Moritz von Oswald and Heinrich Kobberling on the Moritz von Oswald Trio album Dissent, playing keyboards throughout and co-composing all the material. Halo's Awe label formally set forward two years later with the release of Atlas, a set of intensively processed ambient pieces with Halo's piano, Lucy Railton's cello, and James Underwood's violin among the many elements in the drifting mix. By that point, Halo was based in Los Angeles and had joined the faculty of CalArts, teaching composition and experimental sound practices.
© Heather Phares & Andy Kellman /TiVo


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