Laughing Ears - Blood

  • Hyperreal club music inspired by Norse mythology.
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  • The first time I heard Laughing Ears I was floored by the immersive style of her tracks. She was making club music, but it was roomy and open-ended—it felt like you could crawl into the sounds and feel them move around you. (The way she approaches footwork on last year's Metamorphosis EP is unreal, for one example.) I wouldn't exactly call her a storyteller, but there's something rich and narrative about her style of club music, moving beyond mood-setting into world-building. Maybe it has something to do with her day job as a video game sound designer, where she makes virtual environments sound upfront and realistic. Maybe another part of is it just natural musical inclination. At any rate, she's a standout in an already mind-blowing Shanghai club scene, and her second album only elevates her further. Blood's artwork is eye-catching: a red-eyed wolf looking ready to pounce, chained to a rock in the moonlight. It's inspired by the Norse mythology surrounding Fenrir, the wolf son of demigod Loki who was chained up for his entire life because everyone around him feared his strength. Laughing Ears became interested in the myth as a way to process the death of her uncle, an alcoholic who was forcibly locked up in a psychiatric ward where he took his own life. She felt that the hospitalization mirrored Fenrir's chains, both figures misunderstood and trapped by the world around them. 
This is Laughing Ears' most intense and clubby work, but there's also a sense of restraint. The songs rarely ever rise above a simmer—even with the jagged, discordant screeches and pounding drums of tracks like "Murderous Means," which features some of the album's most spine-tingling sound design. Each tune features a broken drum pattern augmented by a few synth melodies, rich background sounds and a switch-up halfway through. They don't just loop for five minutes—they grow. Blood is packed with strange, hard-to-place sounds that feel alien and artificial. "Buona Fortuna" has a staggering array of colours and textures, from breathy growls and metallic percussion to a blood-curdling whine that sounds like a tea kettle. The opening set of tracks, particularly "Flickering Shadows," has the three-dimensional environments that made her earlier work so alluring. I'm particularly drawn back to "Night Wisps," which is based around a thundering low-end squall that repeats stubbornly no matter how much the stuttery, quivering rhythm around it changes. It's easy to follow but also extremely weird. Even that bass sound is unique—vaguely drum & bass yet hollow and metallic, like steel tubing. In an interview with The Skinny, Laughing Ears described her process as playing "with all the knobs at once, from all the oscillators to the effects ratios, and [trying] not to think in a musical way." While her tracks are definitely musical, it's an illuminating explanation of why Blood sounds like it does, familiar yet hyperreal. It might not tell a clear story about Fenrir, but with its inventive arrangement of drums, synths and a few good vocal samples, Blood creates a world all its own.
  • Tracklist
      01. Flickering Shadows 02. Loki 03. Untouched Places 04. Blood 05. Night Wisps 06. Murderous Means 07. Buona Fortuna 08. Glimmer 09. Potcheen 10. Warm As A Lizard