Laurel Halo’s Quarantine is one of 2012’s most critically acclaimed records. Ahead of next week’s Liverpool gig, Getintothis‘ Peter Guy chatted to her about sound-tracking Ridley Scott’s Alien flicks, escapism and why most of today’s pop music is ‘garbage, reaffirming false senses of glory.’
Laurel Halo is arguably 2012’s golden girl. Dictating buzz, claiming critical adoration and teaming up with a host of hip cats – she’s exactly were every new artist wants to be – at the forefront.
All of which is somewhat strange when you consider how disorientating her music is – juxtaposing violence with euphoria, harmonies with dissonance and textured ambience with bass drones, her potential crossover record, Quarantine, released on Monday via Hyperdub, is anything but an easy listen.
However, with the adulation of her previous record, Hour Logic under her belt, 2012 is shaping up to be her breakthrough year, and ahead of next week’s debut date in Liverpool, Laurel took time out from her tour to talk to Getintothis about the shape of things to come.
Laurel Halo – only a baseball cap away from a leading role for L’Oréal
Getintothis: Hello Laurel, how’s tricks?
Laurel Halo: Hey Liverpool!
Getintothis: Your new album’s been getting some great press but everyone seems to be jibber jabbering on about your voice – did you expect this? Which musicians’ vocals really float your boat?
Laurel Halo: I did not expect this kind of echo chamber, Sade is my first love in terms of vocalists but of course Stevie (Wonder), Arthur Russell, Roy Orbison…
I can’t get over the Colonel Abrams vocal on ‘Who Wrote The Rules of Love‘ – vocals that are multi-dimensional and textured and two-faced in a way.
Getintothis: Who have you been listening to while on tour?
Laurel Halo: On tour, I’ve been jamming the new Cooly G record, new Teeth, J Dilla, Echospace, Arthur Russell…
I had some amazing car rides in Italy. Listening to music while driving or riding is the best.
Getintothis: I don’t know whether I’m being subconsciously brainwashed by the imminent release of Prometheus but I think Quarantine would work as a fine soundtrack to the Alien films – in that it’s got a futuristic, almost-outer-planetary vibe to it.
And you’ve also discussed the beauty in imperfection or ‘beautiful ugliness’ – something which resonates in the Alien films, with scientists often referring to the xenomorph as ‘beautiful’.
Even the cover of the record (above) is artistically stunning yet violent. Do you like sci-fi – are there any specific films/influences on your work?
Laurel Halo: Of course would love to score a Ridley Scott film.
Sci-fi has always been important for its presentation of multiple realities. Robert Heinlein,‘s Stranger In A Strange Land and Philip Pullman‘s His Dark Materials trilogy were a big part of my childhood, and franchises like Ghost In The Shell and Neon Genesis Evangelion naturally had a huge impact on the way I think about singularity and isolation.
I revisited Heinlein recently and read his short story Requiem which was really great especially in the context of overblown music discussions about what it means to be futuristic or of the present. Complementary to sci-fi the scope of panorama and action movies and in particular James Cameron‘s epic vibes.
Laurel Halo – big on sci-fi, rubbish at moonwalking
Getintothis: Who would you invite to your fantasy dinner party – five guests, dead or alive – who’s coming to Laurel Halo‘s house for tea?
Laurel Halo: Missy Elliott, Louis CK, Alan Turing, George Carlin, Tina Fey.
Getintothis: You’ve talked about pop being preoccupied with perfection and said Quarantine is a reaction against that. Do you think pop music today is dull? What factors do you think are damaging popular music and what gives you hope for the future?
Laurel Halo: I’m not sure which corner of the echo chamber you heard that from. Quarantine isn’t meant to be a reactionary record on the state of pop music.
I just didn’t want to use Autotune on the record because I liked the tension and blues in the voice, I liked the sound of choked naked vocals. But it doesn’t mean that I dislike Autotune or that I won’t use it in the future
Some pop music is amazing. However, most is this mono harmonic garbage reaffirming false senses of glory.
I hate most ‘underground pop’ because so much of it is just jumbled piles of cool signifiers with a thick toothpasty reverb on top. I think the major labels consolidating their efforts on the successes of specific production/songwriting/pop star combos is making the Lowest Common Denominator process even faster and stronger and that’s trickling down to formerly progressive independent labels too.
Granted there’s a timbral focus on pop production that’s awesome but I miss harmonic variety from even as recent as 10 years ago.
‘Ms Halo, will you please keep still for one minute while we try to take your picture’
Getintothis: Your music is ultimately uplifting – to me it’s a hugely immersive experience – you can get lost in it’s power and flow. What gets you excited and how do you escape outside of music?
Laurel Halo: Thank you. Books, films, weed, friends and in general, people with good senses of humour are all great forms of escape.
Laurel Halo plays Deep Hedonia‘s debut gig in partnership with Liverpool Music Week with Dauwd, Sun Drums and Thomas Gorton of Outfit DJ-ing on Tuesday June 5 at the Kazimier, 7pm. Tickets and info here.