Published Apr 06, 2015In the five years since he started releasing music as Shlohmo, Henry Laufer has seen the haunting, spacious electronic/hip-hop hybrid he helped popularize become the norm; one need only look to the rise of Ryan Hemsworth, who name-checked Shlohmo regularly in the early part of his career, or the Weeknd, whose stellar House of Balloons turned the sound into a new R&B blueprint, for proof. So it makes sense that the wunderkind producer and co-founder of influential beat-maker collective Wedidit would venture away from that sound on his second full-length.
Dark Red finds Laufer moving away from the hazy sound of his 2014 R&B collaborative EP No More with Jeremih in favour of something harder hitting, incorporating the clattering percussion of artists like Andy Stott and the Haxan Cloak with the glitch and wonky sounds of mid-career Flying Lotus. The result is a stylish album that harkens back to the sound of Shlohmo's 2011 EP Places, but takes it somewhere darker and more foreboding.
Dark Red isn't without its flaws. The album is a full hour long, and though most of the songs are captivating, a few tend to drag; only one track here is significantly shorter than five minutes, and "Relentless" and first single "Buried" lack sufficient dynamics to remain interesting for five and seven minutes, respectively.
Still, Shlohmo is a master of mood, and he establishes one right away on the horror-show "Ten Days of Falling," all ominous synth squeals and echo-laden wood blocks. That sense of menace pervades the best moments of Dark Red, including "Emerge From Smoke," "Ditch" and the magnificent album closer, "Beams," which lingers hauntingly until an abrasive acoustic snare/cymbal combo shatters the sense of dread to provide a glimmer of hope at the album's end. It's a stunning song, and a late reminder of Shlohmo's genius that will make you want to play Dark Red again.
(True Panther Sounds)