Four years after his debut album Bad Vibes saw him hailed as the next Flying Lotus, Henry Laufer, aka Los Angeles producer Shlohmo, finally returns with his long-awaited follow-up, the suitably-titled Dark Red.
Following remixes for Laura Mvula, Flume and Lianne La Havas, production work on Banks’ Goddess, and last year’s collaborative E.P. with R&B lothario Jeremih, the 25-year-old hasn’t been entirely missing in action, but there’s still a sense that he has to reassert his place in the already crowded beatmaker scene.
Recorded on his father’s vintage analog synths, Dark Red should help Shlohmo to do so, thanks to eleven intriguing instrumentals which sit somewhere between the organised chaos of Squarepusher and the soundtrack to a sci-fi cult classic.
Featuring a guest appearance from D33J, a fellow member of the Wedidit collective, “Apostle” is a brilliantly creepy soundscape made all the more eerie by its ghostly choral samples. “Meet Ur Maker,” “Slow Descent” and “Fading” are all scintillating forays into dizzying drum ‘n’ bass, while the slow-burning “Buried” gradually mutates into a soaring space-rock epic worthy of gracing any big screen time travel adventure.
But it’s also fair to say that the ominous production style does begin to wear a little thin at times, with several of the five-minute-plus tracks outstaying their welcome. Elsewhere, the echo-laden alt-R&B of “Ditch” and the shadowy trip-hop of “Emerge From Smoke” are practically begging for a vocal contribution from some of Shlohmo’s recent collaborators.
Dark Red, therefore, shows that despite the early comparisons, Shlohmo isn’t quite at the same level as the Brainfeeder label founder just yet. But it’s still a weird, warped and occasionally wonderful record which suggests that he’s not too far away.
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