Monday, May 28, 2012

laurel halo: quarantine (hyperdub)

“A voice means this,” writes Italo Calvino in his gorgeous and insightful short story A King Listens: “There is a living person, throat, chest, feelings, who sends into the air this voice, different from all other voices.” And this is Slovenian philosopher Mladen Dolar in a similar vein in A Voice and Nothing More: “The existence of a voice,” he argues, “always implies a subjectivity.” Clearly neither of them spent much time talking to Siri.

Funny how we persist in drawing a line between the voice and a real flesh-and-blood human subject. In a recent interview with FACT magazine, Laurel Halo had this to say on her thought process in relation to the vocals on new record Quarantine.
I started out with a ton of echo and reverb on [them], but it sounded supremely boring to me, so I was curious how they’d sound dry in the arrangements and got rid of most of the wetness. It ended up creating this amazing contrast effect, the vocals slicing through the mix, giving rhythmic contour to the tracks that was previously missing in delay haze. It was tempting to use autotune but I decided against it because there’s this brutal, sensual ugliness in the vocals uncorrected, and painfully human vocals made sense for this record.
Painfully human. A living person. Throat, chest, feelings. Sensual, ugly, uncorrected. I know what Halo’s getting at. The vocals on Quarantine certainly “slice through the mix.” There really is a presence and intimacy to them, particularly on a track like “Light and Space.” And they do stand out as a feature of the record compared with the decomposed and nearly voiceless dance tracks of 2011’s Hour Logic. But even still, I’m not buying it. It’s not the ‘humanity’ that makes this record, but precisely its problematization. To these ears, everything about Quarantine sounds positively posthuman. And moreover, that’s a crucial part of what makes it special...


Read the rest here. And if you're interested in a primer to Laurel Halo's music, check out the most recent edition of my radio show Far Side Virtual.

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