To say Henry Laufer, better known by his DJ/producer alter-ego, Shlohmo, has had a progressive and diverse career thus far would be an understatement. Emerging from Los Angeles, a metropolis littered with vast artistic aspirations and a potent cacophony of hip-hop-slash-electronic music (or is it the other way around?), Laufer's career seems to have had a varied topography of approachability.
His 2011 LP Bad Vibes was a mélange of lush abstract, tones, the kind that ebbs and flows between peaceful and frantic. The following year, a remix of Jeremih's "Fuck U All The Time" led to a series of collaborations with the R&B singer and put Shohmo in a category of producers like Cashmere Cat, Ryan Hemsworth, and Kastle, leading the charge of the future-leaning blend of hip-hop and dance-centric beats. He produced a track for Banks and through his Wedidit imprint, Laufer has championed RL Grime/Clockwork and Groundislava, artists eager to break out of the DJ rubric.
Slightly changing course on his new album, Dark Red, out today on True Panther/Wedidit, we hear Laufer lulling listeners into a more obscure, less club-centric valley of sound while plunging into a more haunting, swirling mix of of IDM-leaning tones. Even a glance at various track titles ("Falling," "Descent," Remains," "Meet Ur Maker"), reflect the album's central themes of death and despair. Each track picks apart the moments surrounding life's final moments; it's not an easy listen in the slightest.
Album opener "Ten Days of Falling" is led by sparse grunts and noisiness, building up a level of tension that Laufer will slowly decrypt through the album's proceeding eleven tracks. It's followed up by the aforementioned "Meet Ur Maker" which moderately lightens to mood to a soothing melody alongside some hollowed synths—elements that are swiftly cast to the background as the producer deviates completely into an array of more unsettling bleeps.
Tracks like "Buried" and "Emerge From Smoke" start small, but both gradually rise into higher-pressure levels. It often feels like the producer himself is putting his entire body weight on your chest, only briefly releasing himself to segue into lighter, more melodic pauses. "Slow Descent" takes things nearly full IDM, with Aphex Twin-sian breaks and cinematic synths.
"Apathy," a collaboration with Wedidit Collective member D33J, is the closest thing we get in the album's first half to Shlohmo 1.0, with a more ethereal style, with the faintest hint of actual human vocals. "Relentless" finds the artist relating with Hudson Mohawke-levels of drama.
Laufer himself has described Dark Red as "if Electric Wizard tried to make an R&B record, or Boards of Canada meets Burzum by the River Styx." Clearly, his artistic influences and intentions are vast and complex—Norwegian death metal, downtempo electronica, Greek mythology—but also slightly conflicting. He doesn't try to make the album flow easily or uniformly. It's as if he wants the listening experience (like life or the loss of it) to be a bit of a struggle, albeit a beautiful one.
Dark Red Tracklisting
(April 7, 2015 | True Panther/Wedidit)
1. Ten Days of Falling
2. Meet Ur Maker
4. Emerge From Smoke
5. Slow Descent
Dark Red is available now on iTunes
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