There’s something wonderfully unsettling about Laurel Halo’s debut full-length Quarantine. A beat-less electronic album, its 12 tracks bleed into one another, creating a kind of woozy, ambient cloud cover. Hints of pop periodically break through; “Holoday,” in particular, feels like the receding echo of dance music past. But ultimately, song structure is bypassed in favor of a sense of ghostly possibility that echoes both early Dntel and classical composer Steve Reich.
Halo coaxes a stark beauty out of her cascading ones and zeros, and Quarantine‘s tension and character stem from Halo’s juxtaposition of moments of disquieting minimalism with her all-too-human voice. Prime example: “Thaw,” which begins with a sentimental synth refrain that’s paired with Halo’s Nico-like warble — hesitations, missed notes and all. She loops her vocals on “Years” to create a breathy choir, but for most of the record they’re left unadorned, sitting naked at the front of the mix, the masterpiece-defining chip in an otherwise elegant sculpture. Halo’s is a world of supernatural unease, splitting the difference between the ethereal and the haunted.