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Laurel Halo's 'Atlas' describes the feeling of being everywhere and nowhere


After more than a decade playing shows on the road, DJ and composer Laurel Halo began to feel like everywhere was becoming nowhere.


LAUREL HALO: The feeling of everywhere becoming nowhere one can experience when spending time in airports, on planes, on trains, taxis, in hotels, in venues, becoming this atomized object rather than, you know, being able to feel the sort of fundamental resonances of a city.

CHANG: And to put that feeling into music, Laurel Halo turned away from the techno and towards the experimental. Her new album, called "Atlas," is a tapestry of slowly evolving textures, and it was inspired by the nighttime imagery of cities she visited while out on the road.


HALO: Anytime I start working on a record, I like having palettes of mood and texture that I want to try and go for with the music just to have a sort of roadmap. And I had these various sets of nighttime imagery because often, when you are touring and traveling as a musician, you experience cities at night, imagery that you see, perhaps, when you've gotten off of a long shift at work. And it's night, and it's pouring rain, and a car goes by. And you see the reflection of the headlights in the wet pavement, or you see steam coming out of portholes.


HALO: The original in-roads for these tracks were either ambient beds created with synth and sound design, or it was a series of piano sketches.


HALO: It was a additive process and one also of, you know, transformation, turning a piano loop into something that became a sort of, you know, undulating wave-like element, on top of which I would improvise further piano on top or improvise, you know, violin or guitar, vibraphone.


HALO: Of course, certain types of music, such as club music - you do want a desired outcome, which is to make people move. You want to come into conversation with the audience. You want to see how they're reacting to the music, and you want to respond in kind with what you choose to play. The best DJ gigs are ones where the audience is right next to you so you can see an immediate reaction and you can see how bodies are moving. I think when creating music that is more ambient or beatless or contemplative in nature, you're not necessarily thinking about dancing first and foremost. It is about slower movement. So this should be a record for people to walk around to or drive in their cars or reflect or just be comfortably by themselves. I thought this would be really beautiful to make something kind of psychedelic and murky and a bit unsettling but, more than anything, a deep and peaceful listen or a restorative listen.


CHANG: That was DJ and composer Laurel Halo. Her new album is called "Atlas."

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUREL HALO'S "ATLAS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kai McNamee
[Copyright 2024 NPR]