In an interview last year with The Quietus, Laurel Halo shrugged off the label of “retro-futuristic,” instead opting to assert that she is “if anything, obsessed with the asymptote of now.” Her claim is really only surprising in the use of the term asymptote (it’s nice when artists use vocabulary to describe themselves that sends reviewers scurrying). Indeed, Halo and like-minded synth wayfarers like Daniel Lopatin have proved adept at adopting elements from the entire spectrum of “retro-futuristic” synthesizer-based music (kosmische, new age, Detroit techno, synth pop, to name but a few), but instead of stopping at faded reproductions, each artist has shown a suppleness in forging those elements with a very current sensibility, both seemingly able to explode the past and, in Matrix-like slow motion, grab all the disparate pieces and put them back together in their own image.
If you haven’t gathered it by now, King Felix is a moniker of the intrepid Laurel Halo, the name being taken from the title of her first majorly recognized release in 2010. It exists thanks to the new Liberation Technologies label, an offshoot of Mute and seemingly devoted to left-field electronic music tipped toward the abstract end of danceability, perhaps taking its cues from labels like the prolific and inspired Planet Mu or creative torch-bearer Hessle Audio.
On this concise EP, Halo shows a continued fascination with scraping the bones of her creative exoskeleton. Her releases to date have all shared a kind of focused tension, exploring different directions/tendencies. Last year’s acclaimed Hour Logic was a kind of maxi-EP that featured some sublimated Detroit/deep house nods along with a focus on layering and sampling of vocals. It was rightfully lauded due to the slippery nature of its breadth of sound. Antenna was an addendum to Hour Logic and was mostly a cassette full of ambient sketches without any semblance of the driving percussion of its predecessor. Going allllll the way back to 2010 (an eternity these days), her initial offering King Felix was full of vocally-fueled synth pop with a ghostly tint.
This Spring EP is almost as heavily invested in theoretical dance-floor rhythms as Hour Logic, but it lacks Halo’s significant vocal theatrics that made a track like “Constant Index” so outstanding. The first track, “SPRING01,” begins with a teasing melody that could be partially sampled from The Field’s From Here We Go Sublime, but there is a footwork influence inherent in the skittering toms and other fractured percussive/concussive elements. “SPRING03” is similar in its footwork framework, but more unabashedly so. If this is retro-futuristic in any way, it is only in the sense that footwork has been already metabolized by our present-day voracious appetite for the new. “SPRING02” is a much more straightforward house jam. It’s big and vivacious and is perhaps the most likely of this set to be heard in a physical dance floor setting. “FREAK” perhaps embraces some of Halo’s love of Basic Channel, as it’s a bit dubby and full of murky texture, a quality palate cleanser.
Spring is as functional as it is conceptually strong. All dance music seeks to be functional (to induce dancing, whether in the physical club space or the personal, in-the-glow-of-a-computer-screen space). The songs on this EP manage to do both. While essentially all being descended from the same elements, each song displays a different aspect of Halo’s strong sense of style and composition. This brief collection showcases an artist approaching some kind of massive peak, and perhaps Halo’s upcoming Quarentine LP on Hyperdub will continue building her reputation as one of the most vital electronic artists of the present day.