There hasn’t been a new Shlohmo album in about three and a half years, but the LA-based electronic producer has been busy. Last year, he released an EP with R&B singer Jeremih, No More, and produced a standout track on alt pop singer-songwriter Banks’ debut, Goddess. He made remixes for Flume, Ryan Hemsworth, and Laura Mvula, and produced a slew of smaller projects. But during this time, he’s also quietly dealt with a series of personal losses, which in turn inspired Dark Red, a violently loud, dizzying articulation of grief and loss. It’s a murky record that never settles in one place and never resolves.
Dark Red isn’t dramatically different from Shlohmo’s 2011 debut, Bad Vibes, which was almost spectral in the way that it trapped melancholy R&B melodies within its synth walls. It’s not too different from No More either, where he also tinkered with R&B — just without disembodying it. His crushingly warped sounds here, though, are even more muffled, denser, darker. It’s almost laughable that he didn’t name this one Worse Vibes, because a numbing anxiety hangs over songs like “Buried” and “Emerge From Smoke”, and he captures its essence without letting it dictate the tone. Dark Red is molded by tragedy, but it never explicitly sounds catastrophic. There are none of the dystopian overtones that permeate many moody experimental and ambient releases. Shlohmo barrels through existential dread with blaring, distorted noise, as if shouting into the void.
Using his father’s vintage analog synths and gear, Shlohmo manipulates damaged sound to create a sort of inorganic decay that makes the emotional pulls that much more gripping. He’s always had a knack for vocal samples, often seemingly imprisoning them in sonic carbonite. But on “Ditch” and “Fading”, he distorts them into palpable echoes. On “Relentless”, a cascade of drums makes way for meandering synths that creep around the alternating rhythms. Percussion snaps and hisses on “Slow Descent” before exploding into drilling drum ‘n’ bass. With Dark Red, Shlohmo channels his pain into scintillating electronic exploits that riff off his emotions but don’t lodge.
Essential Tracks: “Fading”, “Ditch”, and “Remains”