Laurel Halo’s 2018 album, Raw Silk Uncut Wood, marked a shift in her work, pulverizing the avant-techno rhythms of records like In Situ and Dust into choppy electro-acoustic textures flecked with jazz piano. On Atlas, her first major album in five years, her music continues to dissolve. Across these 10 elusive, enigmatic tracks, there are few melodies, no rhythms, no fixed points at all—just a hazy swirl of strings and piano that sounds like it was recorded underwater and from a great distance. Yet for all the music’s softness, it bears little in common with ambient as it’s typically conceived. An air of disquiet permeates the pastel haze; her atmospheres frequently feel both consonant and dissonant at the same time. Even at its most abstract, however, Atlas radiates unmistakable grace. In “Naked to the Light,” melancholy piano carves a path halfway between Erik Satie and mid-century jazz balladry; in “Belleville”—a distant tribute, perhaps, to the Detroit techno that influenced her—a languid keyboard figure echoes Blade Runner’s rain-slicked noir before a wordless choir briefly raises the specter of Alice Coltrane’s spiritual jazz. But those reference points are fleeting: For the most part, Atlas is a closed world, a universe unto itself, in which blurry shapes tremble in a fluid expanse of deep, abiding melancholy.

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