Ok, so basically, Shlohmo is the fuking champ. Real-name Henry Laufer, he makes the kind of R&B soundscapes that the ‘90s would be very proud of. His newest EP, Laid Out, is an amazing journey across 5-tracks that builds quite nicely on his previous Vacation EP. It’s useless to pigeonhole his creations into any one genre but for those unfamiliar, his music is like if D’Angelo and Aaliyah were to record in dank, graffiti-ridden tunnels, under the glare of fluorescent lights in modern Los Angeles. His music really speaks for itself, crafting intricate stories of loss and loneliness through stuttered percussion, pitch-shifted vocals, and syrupy, lo-fi melodies.
There’s something truly unique about every track on Laid Out. All of them are catchy in their own right, though opening track ‘Don’t Say No’ might take the cake with a beautiful performance by the darling Tom Krell, aka How To Dress Well. It lays the groundwork for the rest of the EP, teasing the listener with a faux-beginning, featuring a simplistic beat and minimal production, before thrusting the listener into the murk (around the 1:17 mark) of Shlohmo’s masterful guitar riffs and HTDW’s most haunting high notes. Later on, Laufer pitch-shifts one of Krell’s most moving melodies up multiple octaves above its original performance, apotheosizing Krell’s ethereal vocals to a state beyond our world.
‘Later’ is definitely the standout single of the EP though, every moment of it is well-accounted for – which is surprising considering it’s Shlohmo’s longest track to date, clocking in at 6:27. It’s the epic we’ve all been waiting for from him and the extended running time gives all of his amazing production the space it needs to come to a proper conclusion. Aside from the running time, ‘Later’ is also brilliant because it expertly showcases the trap-esque, sputtering percussive stabs that have characterized Laufer’s work since at least his ‘Crew Love’ remix where Shlohmo takes a simple percussive snare and persistently fucks about with the frequency and density, disorienting the listener while also greatly upping the instinctual urge to dance.
‘Put It’ is a moody, frustrated piece that features similarly tricked percussion while also deploying the screechiest, angriest melody of the entire EP, transporting the listener in a low-rent strip club where sultry women gyrate in slow-motion up and down the poles, while the chipped red walls shimmer in the unsteady, dimmed light. EP closer, ‘Without’, brings the entire journey to a pretty fitting end. Referencing more Bad Vibes era Shlohmo it’s full of soul and crackling found sounds and it’s completely satisfying from the first tick of the clock, but inevitably ups the ante in a whirlwind of angst and emotion.
Shlohmo’s newest offering is fantastic because it doesn’t just exemplify Laufer’s mastery of his own unique sound; it also represents his best work ever and promises greater (or lean-er) horizons for the multi-talented musician.
Shlohmo’s Laid Out EP is out now on Friends of Friends.