Thursday, 20 March 2014

For The Record: Laurel Halo - Chance Of Rain

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date. About five months late, actually. If I'd made that date, the one that marked the release of this album, I'd have realised that not only is it the best that was released in 2013, but one of The Greatest Albums Ever Made. Do I exaggerate? A little. After all, it's in competition with The Shape Of Jazz To Come, For Your Pleasure and Mothership Connection for that honour.

I write to set the record straight, or rather, to have on record the fact that Laurel Halo's Chance Of Rain is a stunning piece of work. Should Include Me Out end tomorrow I couldn't live knowing that I hadn't done this. You could, of course, but you don't count in this matter. Perhaps you've been enjoying this album since October. In which case, congratulations.

The hype didn't escape my attention, of course, but you know how it is with a trillion sounds vying for your ears. Well, my ears don't always function as well as they should. They aren't always turned on properly, most often when LJ is berating me for doing (or not doing) something. And yes, even music doesn't get through sometimes. I'm sure I must have sampled some of this record when it came out. Since I fool myself into thinking I have Good Taste, it's a mystery as to why this album didn't register.

When all the end-of-year lists appeared I noticed this on one from PAN boss, Bill Kouligas, a man whose taste I respect. So early this year I re-listened and have been listening ever since. It didn't take long for me to realise how brilliant it is. My pleasure was only tainted with the other realisation that it should have been on my list too. Not that I think you're all looking to me to find out what's Great and what's not, no, this is personal.

Halo hadsmade what feels like a personal recording, as opposed to simply making great electronic sounds. It's infused with feeling imposed on the machine. Is this because she's a woman, therefore not driven by macho urges to impress, to shout the loudest, flex technical muscle and make noise? Perhaps. We know she is not solely driven by influences such as Dance music, yet her taste for more demanding genres is the sub-text rather than the guiding light. Serendip, for instance, suggests counter-intuitive rhythmic patterns that would collapse into chaos in the hands of the less skilled. Yet she meshes the whole jittery mechanism of movement together quite brilliantly.

The title track starts in one style, the more familiar kind that's reminiscent of Acid/Techno excursions, but is taken to another dimension by the simple keyboard melody which slowly shifts the shape into something far more interesting. It's as if Herbie Hancock skipped from the Mwandishi band to truly modern mood music on the Rhodes. Then there's Thrax, a funky, yes, funky mutation of tight rhythm and melody that always teeters on the edge of chaos without falling, moving forward, instead, to some hazy, cosmic future.

I won't go on about each track. This, as I've said, is just to put things right. Now I'm listening, and more to the point looking, very closely, at what Laurel Halo will do this year. And I won't miss it next time.

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