Shlohmo's "Dark Red" - Time Traveling A Schizophrenic Emotional Landscape

It’s not very often that an artist makes a record that is equal parts nostalgic, futuristic, angry, wistful and contemplative all at the same time. In his sophomore release Dark Red, that is exactly what Shlohmo (Henry Laufer) has done. This is a nuanced and sonically complex record, that is simultaneously inviting and unsettling.

Recorded in a studio comprised of 80’s era synthesizers, peppered with guitar and live drums (or an incredibly good approximation), the instruments used here may be straight out of the past, but what is delivered is firmly rooted in 2015. The record’s “retro” feel lulls you in, and just as you settle in, it throws you something you’re not expecting. And while it may be devastating and violent, like the best dysfunctional love affairs, it’s also incredibly beautiful.

The opening track, “Ten Days of Falling,” starts with a low-fi synth, with brooding strings serving as the baseline. The track slowly builds, then drops a sludgy hip-hop beat that’s reminiscent of “Knockout Drops” by Single Cell Orchestra. The track ends with what sounds like a tape reel pausing, framing the albums definitive analog sensibility.

The second track, “Meet Ur Maker” starts with fuzzy linn drums and rich strings, then a subtle double-time, almost drum and bass rhythm kicks-in, pulling a page out of the Warp Artificial Intelligence playbook. With “Buried,” the track layers lush and emotive synths, with shoe gaze guitar and live heavy drums that sounds like itcould be lifted from one of Metallica’s “slow jams.”

With “Emerge From Smoke” we’re presented with an arpeggiated synth, again with deep strings as the bassline, and a nice melodic progression that makes you think a vocal could drop at any time. Moving into the track “Slow Decent” the high-octave end of a piano, cure-like guitars and a slow chugging 4/4 drums and machine drums co-mingle to form a frenetic drum and bass rhythm that’s anchored by a lush melody. The sounds are juxtaposed, creating a sonic environment that feels like driving a hundred miles an hour in a beautiful countryside locale.

On “Apathy,” the opening sounds like it could be a Gary Numan track. The rich reverb guitar and haunting female vocal that sounds less like singing and more like a longing chant give it it’s signature. With
Relentless” and “Ditch” the 80’s synths and drum pads are the scaffolding for a dense layer of sounds that include tribal chanting and ghosted-out strings.

Moving into “Remains,” the melodic percussion, which sounds like a Martian marimba, mix with the moody guitars and, at times, sound like Robert Smith could easily croon over it, whereas “Fading
has the faintest of vocals, subtle synth stabs, and a Good Looking Records style drum and bass loop.

The closing track “Beams” starts as an ambient affair, with chimes and wind sounds looping and echoing until they’re pierced with the by-now familiar sound of the deep synth pad, a building rhythm track lead by a beautifully flat snare that traverses back into D&B territory.

So many artists over the past few years have come out strong, only to see their next efforts either rehash their last record, or frankly not have the stamina or talent to continue producing at the same level of quality. If there’s one thing that stands out about this record, it’s the evolution of Shlohmo. This producer has taken his time to craft a record that shows his maturity as an artist, and takes the next logical step in his evolution. It’s safe to say in the 5 years since his last full-length release that this artist has been a zen master, refining his techniques and developing a sound that can truly be called his own.

Shlohmo’s Dark Red will be released April 7 via True Panther/Wedidit.  Pre-order is available now on iTunes.

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