Shlohmo ShlohmoBad Vibes
FRIENDS OF FRIENDS Shlohmo , aka Henry Laufer, is a 21 year old musician and visual artist from Los Angeles who, in the last few years, has firmly established himself on the forefront of L.A’s beat scene renaissance. This is in no small part due to his work alongside the Wedidit collective, along with solo releases on the burgeoning Friends Of Friends label and some particularly amazing bootlegs (see his remix of Montell Jordan “This Is How We Do It” for proof of the latter).
With hype steadily building, the young artist chose to release his debut album this month, a record he’s worked for the last year. Despite his relatively short musical experience, it shows a breadth of talent and imagination that surpasses his years. Laufer admits that he wanted to craft full songs for ‘Bad Vibes’, not just beats or productions, a laudable effort, considering how other similar artists often take years to achieve the same. The result is an album that retains some swing with a headnod to the scene that spawned him, and combines it with a hazy quality that Laufer channels through slide guitar, synth melodies and his own, effected vocals.
Those expecting something similar to Shlohmo’s previous work will be surprised, but keep an open mind. It’s easy to find elements on ‘Bad Vibes’ that build on his previous work, creating a bridge towards his desire to write songs. I’ve found myself thinking about the Flying Lotus record, ‘Cosmogramma’ a lot while listening to ‘Bad Vibes’, not because there is any musical relation between the two, far from it, but rather because these albums strike me as examples of young artists born from the experimental hip hop/electronic scenes, both striving to achieve the musical recognition afforded to ‘proper’ musicians. Where Flying Lotus drew from his jazz heritage for ‘Cosmogramma’, Shlohmo has reached for something between rhythm and blues and shoegaze for ‘Bad Vibes’ and infused it with a delicate hip hop swing that makes the music all the more intriguing.
There is plenty on ‘Bad Vibes’ to highlight. From ‘Places’, the first single, with its gentle bluesy vibe and dreamy vocals to ‘I Can’t See You I’m Dead,’ a slow and hypnotic song that washes over you with distortion and echoed guitar notes slowly releasing itself over a loose rhythm. In fact ‘Bad Vibes’ is one of those albums that demands to be listened from beginning to end to absorb its full impact. While songs like ‘Places’ can easily be taken out and enjoyed on their own they’re much more powerful as part of the album’s whole.
If there is one thing I found myself doubting after listening to ‘Bad Vibes’ on repeat is that the hazy quality of the songs. At times, the effect can overwhelm the listener. Combined with the difficulty of taking songs out of the album’s context, it can make ‘Bad Vibes’ jarring at first, especially when listened to in the wrong mood or place, as I found myself doing on a couple occasions. It’s by no means a bad thing, and doesn’t deter from the quality of the album, but rather something to bear in mind.
‘Bad Vibes’ is not just a ballsy move for such a young producer, it’s an incredible tour de force by a gifted artist who is likely to continue to impress and evolve. It’s at times beautiful and dreamy, then challenging and hypnotic. If this is what Laufer can produce at such a young age then it’ll be fascinating to see where he goes next as he continues to develop himself as a musician. Don’t let the title fool you, delve deep into the vibes Shlohmo offers on this debut, you won’t regret it.