A blind test at Laurel Halo's second sold-out Plastic People show might have at times thrown up the names "Peverelist" or "2562." The evocation of their "steppers" approach to techno formed a surprising framework for sections of Halo's 60 minute dance-heavy set at the tiny London venue. The Hyperdub artist's second European tour this year was in support of Quarantine, her debut album. The record was composed using synths and sequencers but contained none of the club thump it appears she favours whilst playing live. Halo's set in fact pointed towards her so far limited music as King Felix; the Spring EP for new Mute sub-label Liberation Technologies got moving through shimmering dub techno and twitchy high-tempo electronica.
The audiophile-like focus on sound reproduction at Plastic People can make for a curious ambience. The deadening effect of the acoustically treated space sometimes feels oppressive and immersive all at the same time, which was certainly the case during The Haxan Cloak's warm-up performance. Bobby Krlic's set dealt in degrees of intensity applied to steadily repeated phrases. Hunched over a single sampler/sequencer, he incrementally toyed with the signal-to-noise ratio in line with tempo, building to a 30-second finale of ludicrous sub-bass pressure.
The space's acoustics also seemed to be affecting attendee's behaviour: a library-like hush fell on the room as Halo got out the gaffer tape for final pre-show preparations, no-one wishing to speak out of turn and pierce the atmosphere. A mass of swirling synths and samples marked the set's opening although the cloud was soon grounded by an attack of kick drums. Halo's incessantly jerking upper body conveyed an artist who—in the live arena at least—is chiefly concerned with rhythm, a point further illustrated by the bouncing UK-style basslines she often deployed.
Save for some fleeting samples, the divisive vocals of Quarantine were almost completely left to one side, Halo instead focussing on programming her drum machine and playing keys. Although slightly stiff from the circumstances—a wet Wednesday night in London—the audience largely appeared rapt throughout. Across her recorded output and live performances, Halo is increasingly operating with an impressive duality.