Shlohmo’s latest album, Dark Red, feels dense and foreboding; it’s the type of music you might want to listen to with the shades drawn and the lights off. Before listening to the LP, just by glancing at track titles such as, “Meet Ur Maker,” “Buried,” and “Fading,” you get a sense of the atmosphere that the 24-year-old, Henry Laufer, producer and co-founder of the WEDIDIT collective, is trying to evoke with this new project.
Shlohmo’s music has always dabbled with an unspoken sense of uplifted melancholy, two very contradictory thoughts that made his music so enjoyable. “Places,” a highlight from Shlohmo’s first album, Bad Vibes, had a beautiful melody laid over a backdrop of lo-fi vocals and clicking drums soaked in delay and echo effects. It’s also important to note that Shlohmo is a producer that isn’t afraid to experiment with many forms of production. One of his EP’s titled Laid Out, had Shlohmo combining his unique sense of claustrophobic production with trap drums and tightly wound synth chords that built at a beautiful pace ultimately expanding into moments of sonic bliss.
Up to this point in his career Shlohmo has shown that he has a tight grasp on various styles of production, but Dark Red feels to be a full-length album that is lacking ideas. Nearly every song on the album feels like a journey evocative of a dystopian future; filled with fog, rain puddles and glaring neon signs.
While his first LP, Bad Vibes, felt like the work of a bedroom producer hanging onto the idea of isolation and general aloofness, Dark Red is massive in comparison. The drums are roaring, the atmosphere has expanded and it grabs your attention at times with unnerving relentlessness.
The third track, “Buried,” begins as a somber combination of hissing synths and melodic guitar plucks and then suddenly evolves into a colossal monster staring the listener in the face and calling for attention. “Emerge From Smoke,” one of the first singles released for the album, is bombastic and filled with glitch sounds, but around the three-minute mark, a menacing synth chord progression blares out, once again evoking a sense of aggression previously never heard from Shlohmo. This sense of progression from a musician that always treaded on a more self-reflective spectrum of production, to a more thunderous and dominant force is enjoyable to witness but at times the album can feel redundant.
To understand and fully appreciate the music you can take a look at the album’s cover. It’s entirely devoid of color, with an ominous black rose placed at the center of a black and grey background.. Even the logo for Shlohmo’s independent label, WEDIDIT, is designed in a similar fashion; a gravestone with a smiley face and the labels name inscribed on the front.
In an interview with Fader magazine Shlohmo said, “If it’s normal, it just means that the majority of people like it, and the majority of people are obviously stupid, because everything’s so fucked up.” Shlohmo reveals himself in his music and it isn’t too hard to notice if you backtrack through his catalog of releases, he is a musician who creates music for the reclusive partygoer.
The sixth track, “Apathy,” featuring fellow WEDIDIT member, DEEJ, is once again a solemn affair with a repetitive vocal sample that sounds haunting but the trap drums on this track have a way of brightening up a gloomy song. It is often hard to differentiate between most tracks as they seem to meld together into a tightly wound fabric of drab darkness.
The immensity of Dark Red makes it enjoyable at times, but many people will have a hard time embracing the bleakness of the world Shlohmo has created on the album. The calming sense of hope you might have once experienced on Bad Vibes is no longer evident — for better or for worse.