Shlohmo is the stage persona of solitary Los Angeles electronic producer Henry Laufer. Since 2011’s acclaimed Bad Vibes, Shlohmo released a series of EPs and collaborated with an impressive list of contemporaries, including How To Dress Well and Gonjasufi. Perhaps the biggest of these collaborations was 2014’s No More, a Def Jam-released mixtape which saw Shlomo team up with radio-friendly Chicagoan R&B singer Jeremih (he of “Birthday Sex” fame). Shlohmo will release Dark Red, his first full length in four years, on April 7th.
Stylistically, Dark Red shares a lot in common with No More and the EPs the preceded it. Shlohmo effortlessly shifts between bursts of quantized percussion and minimalistic synthesizer sounds. What makes this new album stand out above his recent releases is the sense of gloom that persists throughout. “Buried” opens with a series of sparse synth tones, before transforming into a dense soundscape, complete with guitar lead and arpeggiated keyboards. It could pass for a sunbaked cassette of an 80’s action movie soundtrack, at times veering into John Carpenter territory. Press leading up to the Dark Red’s release described the album as “devastating”, “violent”, and “polarizing”, all of which are apt descriptors for “Buried”. More than any other song on the album, “Buried” is an excellent example of how Shlohmo harnesses a sinister mood through his mastery of production and melody.
One of the most impressive aspects of Dark Red is the attention to detail placed on each sound. Take “Emerge From Smoke”: the keyboard lead is blown out, causing a clipping sound which, in theory, should distract the listener from everything else surrounding the hook. Instead, it gives Shlohmo the space to work quiet percussive clicks into the background, sounds which reveal themselves in different ways on repeat listens. “Slow Descent” is built around a repeating series of pinch harmonics played on a guitar, juxtaposed by a dizzying arrangement of drum sounds. It’s programmed as tactfully as any top-tier IDM from the past, without becoming too challenging for the average listener.
Dark Red feels much more like a cohesive artistic statement than any of Shlohmo’s recent releases, due largely in part to the LP format. The four year gap since Bad Vibes makes Dark Red feel that much more sizable.