Following up his various EPs in 2011 –alongside “Bad Vibes,” his debut album for Friends of Friends–, young West Coast producer Henry Laufer, a.k.a. Shlohmo, kicks off the 2012 season with a new release (having relocated to New York City in the meantime). With only three original productions, “Vacation EP” is short and to-the-point. Shlohmo has evidently moved his sound forward since his LP, swapping the overall fuzziness and slower pace of his previous work for a sound that seems more anchored in the dance floor (albeit a still hazy perception of it) no doubt thanks to his growing popularity and gigging. After all, his early work, while fascinating at times, never quite struck me as music that would make for the most engaging hour in a dark, sweaty club.
So, on “The Way U Do,” “wen uuu,” and “Rained the Whole Time,” we get music that’s more upbeat, thanks in no small part to the rhythmic instrumentation: pounding bass, heavy drum kicks, and flourishes of percussion that evoke the more recent popular sounds and styles in the worldwide electronic underground. Deep, warm bass still anchors much of the tracks, while the melodies and overall mood of the tracks are still firmly in the hazy, reverbed, melancholic style that was the trademark of his previous work, creating a pleasant dichotomy between them and the more upbeat dance rhythms. His use of guitar melodies and processed vocals works an absolute treat in creating music that’s fit for both open-minded dance floors and dreamy public transport trips. Personally, the most exciting thing for me about “Vacation” is where Shlohmo might potentially go from here.
The EP also offers up a spate of remixes, as is now the norm. Airhead, Evenings, D33J, Nicolas Jaar and fellow FoF label mates Groundislava and Salva all pitch in their various takes on the originals. While a nice addition, Salva and Nicolas Jaar essentially steal the entire remix show from everyone else. I quite like the Airhead one – and I’ve only heard part of the Groundislava one, as it’s vinyl only – but really Jaar and Salva turn in such great reworks that everyone else might as well just go home. Salva flips “wen uuu” into an abstract 808 jam that’s all flying percussion, sweeping and cascading bass, and atmospheric vocals. I’ll admit to being biased as this trend of playing with the recent 808 revival in a subdued, non-obvious manner is one of my favourite things at the moment. What Salva does best with his remix, though, is show the kind of chops that only come with experience. Nicolas Jaar for his part delivers an absolute beauty on his remix of “Rained the Whole Time,” utilising the original’s guitar part to great effect as an intro to help him rebuild the track into a percussive, melancholic jam that’s in the same vein as what made his own debut album so great and beautiful: instant replay.
“Vacation” works and should please both existing fans as well as potential newcomers, though its greatest appeal for me is the potential it hints at for where the young producer might go from here. I’ll be waiting to see what comes of it.