Shlohmo has just released his latest album, Dark Red, and in a word, it’s… different.
Created during a difficult year for Henry Laufer, the musician who we know better as Shlohmo, the album reveals a darkness, and a deep, disturbing sense of anguish.
Laufer had difficulties with the release of his previous album, a collaboration with Jeremih, which ended up being delayed by two months due to poor management. Moreover he’s suffered personal losses, having spoken of hospitals, problems with family and finding it difficult to enjoy creating new music.
The result is an album that seems to completely reject the palatable conglomeration of hip-hop and R&B that Shlohmo has spent his career becoming known for. Dark Red contains barely any vocals, melodies are chopped up and distorted, and synth and bass are warped beyond recognition.
The first four tracks serve as a kind of introduction to his new style, containing some incredible builds, as well as some of the heaviest moments in the entire album. Buried is probably one of the darkest songs of the entire album, and one of the best. The track starts slowly with a creepy, distorted synth, and gradually builds, culminating in an acute sense of hysteria. Buried brings to mind a kind of 50s horror movie, which is emphasised by the maccabre music video that he has released to go with it.
Shlohmo temporarily lifts the shroud of negativity with Emerge from Smoke, which combines that repetitive grimy synth that he’s so fond of with a more uplifting melody. The subtle layering of beats creates an incredible sense of anticipation, which is satisfied, unlike many of the other tracks, by a change in tempo midway through, as well as some gorgeous drum beats.
But then he seems to sink back down again into that listless despair. Apathy, Slow Descent, Relentless and Ditch are as hard to listen to as their titles suggest. With hardly any change throughout, and each lasting between four and six minutes, they become a sort of wall of sound that simply washes over you.
Beams brings the energy back with a profound sense of optimism. Shlohmo also delivers a soaring drum track in this piece, but by God you have to sit through a lot of slow-burning despair before you reach it.
(Photo courtesy of Selt-Titled)
When listened to in contrast with songs from Shlohmo’s previous albums, it’s hard not to question the intention behind the intermediate tracks. The album would certainly function better as a piece without them. Whether they were intended as a deliberate challenge for his listeners, or whether they are to him a form of escapism, or musical therapy, we don’t know.
We do know that in a recent profile for Self-Titled, he spoke of rejecting the influence that his audience, as well as other music styles hold over him, saying “I just want to do my own fucking thing,” and telling them that his group’s ultimate aesthetic is “fuck everything.”
In its entirety, Dark Red is overwhelming, but that is perhaps what makes it such a important album for Shlohmo. There is a sense that he no longer cares as how he is received, or rather that he wants to push away those that seek a mainstream, shallow sense of fulfilment from his music. His new sound is different, and brave.
You can check the entire album out on Spotify or iTunes.