Laurel Halo Embraces Chaos
a.k.a. An interview with the multifaceted artist about her new album, her unexpected move to LA and wrestling with restlessness.
Some artists are unclassifiable. Take Laurel Halo. How would one describe her music? Ambient, jazz, experimental, techno, bass music, avant pop… all these descriptors (and plenty of others) could be assigned to certain parts of her catalog, but none of them individually capture the totality of her work. Over the past 15 years, she’s carved out her own unique practice, one in which releasing multiple albums on Hyperdub sits comfortably alongside soundtracking films, playing in a jazz trio with Moritz von Oswald and assembling a rhythmically complex DJ-Kicks mix. Earlier this year, she added an additional layer of complexity by joining the faculty at CalArts, a move that represented not only a new professional challenge, but also a relocation to Los Angeles after years of living in Berlin (and before that, New York).
Amidst that upheaval, the Michigan native—who grew up as a self-described “orchestra kid” in Ann Arbor, just a stone’s throw from Detroit—has also put the finishing touches on a new solo album, her first in five years. Entitled Atlas and scheduled for release on September 22, it’s the first release on her newly inaugurated Awe label. (Awe is also the name of the monthly NTS radio show she’s been hosting for the past two years.) Having spent the past month DJing around Europe, Halo will soon be debuting a new Atlas live show, which she’ll be touring throughout the rest of the year—when she’s not back at CalArts teaching classes, of course. (While she’s back in California next month, she’ll also be moderating the LA stop of my upcoming US book tour.)
From the outside, Halo’s schedule looks hectic, to say the least, and curious to find out more about how manages all of these activities—both logistically and in terms of her creative practice—I asked if she’d be up for a chat here in the newsletter. We hopped on a call last week while she was in Berlin, and over the course of a lengthy conversation, talked about her new album and label, how she’s adjusting to life in Los Angeles, the current state of dance music and the many, many facets of her work, including her (very limited) forays into the fashion realm during the past few years and her still-new role as an academic faculty member. Parsing all of this didn’t necessarily make categorizing Laurel Halo any easier, but it did illuminate some important through lines that tie her various endeavors together.