10 Mar, 2013

Shlohmo – “Laid Out”

Schlohmo - Laid OutIn a musical landscape saturated with 808 drum samples, syncopated rhythms, and sidechained compressors, it is rare for an artist to develop a style that allows them stand out, rather than blend in with the concrete and graffiti influenced beat scene of L.A. 20 year-old producer Henry Laufer aka Shlohmo was able to do just that in 2011 with the release of his debut album, Bad Vibes. This album was a much needed reprise from the noise of daily life, an opportunity to be engulfed in lush soundscapes expertly crafted with chopped and screwed R&B hooks, distorted bass, and lurching rhythms.

Laid Out marks Laufer’s first multi-track release of 2013. The five songs do a good job of expressing his range of styles as a producer.

The first track of the EP features the singing of R&B/Pop artist Tom Krell (How To Dress Well). The track’s vocals are rare for a Shlohmo track (judged by the fact that you can understand them at times.) Krell’s soulful style and lyrics are a perfect accompaniment to Laufer’s gloomy harmonic choices for his distorted synths. At times Krell’s voice is clear, while at others it is distorted and overdriven to the point it sounds like screeching. This brings a very psychedelic feel to the tune, with vocal sounds sweeping between textural noise and echoed lyrics.

“Out of Hand” is a stand out track with a wobbly lead synth and delayed vocals. Fans of hip-hop will appreciate the syncopated rhythms and triplet drum layers. Regardless of your musical inclination, the track takes you places. Somewhere between nostalgia and longing, there is a place of absolute bliss, where the turbulence of the world is put through a delay and a filter, leaving only lush beats as the focus.  The track gradually gains energy as the synth wails, before gradually breaking down into ethereal soundscapes.

The feelings flow nicely into “Later”, an upbeat cut with a bit less emphasis on the abstract. Arpeggiated synth lines cut through heavy 808 drum breaks and obscured vocals. This is the closest you will get to a party anthem from Shlohmo. The slow moving bass lines are ever present, but the combination of the synth and drums give this track an unshakable energy.

The remaining tracks of the EP are fairly predictable hip hop beats, with some light sampling and synth work. They are very solid beats, however they don’t pull you in to the extent I know Laufer is capable of. Maybe these final tracks are meant to be heard by rappers eager for collaboration, or perhaps they are resurrected beats from a different time in Laufer’s career. Either way, I will stick to the first half of this EP for my recommendations.

Overall, this is a great introduction to the past, present, and future of Shlomo’s sound. It is music that pulls influence from trip-hop, R&B, soul, and funk, as well as dance music, to create a truly forward thinking sound.

Review by Nate Turley.

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