I’m coming at this review firmly entrenched in Henry Laufer’s corner. Not in the dickriding sense, because to be honest I don’t really fuck with some of his stuff, but just in terms of really respecting him as an artist and being willing to entertain the most absurd, abstract ideas of what he may be incorporating into his work and taking everything I pull from the listening experience as somewhat intentional on his part.
Like much of our generation, I get fucked up and sorta like, idk, think about stuff quite a lot. Let’s say I get Laid Out. That’s a pretty fun/fruitful thing to do in this world of constant stimulus and information. It certainly is a unique perspective, one in which I can divorce myself from all the mechanisms I normally use to sort the overload of information pouring into my brain through the Macbook/eyes/ears corridor into meaningful bins. In my weird, drug addled state of being, those bins become a little more convoluted and bits of knowledge that I have accumulated mix together and lead me to some very wacky conclusions about things and how they work.
Much of what enters my being through the computer/sensory superhighway comes in the form of music. I deal with an improbable number of different permutations of frequencies and macro-arrangements of frequency clumps upon which I vaguely cast the “808 drum machine” schema. Ever since becoming obsessed with “Top Back” by T.I., that instrument has meant a lot to me, even though I didn’t know it for years. The same with synths composed generally from saw/square waves, which have constituted the underpinnings of harmony in western pop music for a minute now.
That’s why I fuck with the instrumentation on “Later” by Shlohmo SO TOUGH. I can listen and discern the different 808 hits that I have become so familiar with, the underpinnings of the huge synth bass tones, and I derive pleasure from the “comfort foods” in the soundscape. Yet, there is a carefully wrought gauze over each of his instruments that is never static; it moves, sometimes imperceptibly, but it always pushes each of his sounds forward into what comes next, and it gives everything the sense of novelty that is so prized in contemporary electronic music.
Shlohmo is one of those “pop-conscious” producers, and thus, in a critical analysis of his music, you gotta spend some time thinking about the vocal element. His treatment of vocals has been, dare I say, groundbreaking across his entire Places EP-and-after canon. He doesn’t just put cool effects on well-chopped vocal snippets, he does it in a way that crafts an entire layer of meaning beyond what those voices may be saying. There is a careful attention to inflection that makes utterly digitized voices seem so human and emotive. He takes this to the next level in the lead single from Laid Out, in which a fuzzed out voice relies on his careful effects processing to impart any meaning on the listener. The fact that, without any heterogeneous syllables, I can understand that the voice is saying “I feel it” at the soaring drops is a testament to the skill with which Shlohmo wields his “Ableton Voice”, managing to marry technical skill with the visceral impact of pop. Well done mans.
So as to not leave my earlier run on sentences about drug use hanging, let me get into the arrangement of the elements in this tune. The most salient impression I got from my first listen to “Later” was how much of a jump in song structure and development this represents for him. It’s subtle, there are few clues to guide you out of a 6 minute trance, but for me, this song is centered around three big moments, which have this awesome chorus/drop hybrid feel to them. Between the drops, the arrangement swirls around to give this awesome pushing/pulling sensation that sets up the big moments with a sense of eventuality. There is a moment of silence, and then, boom, you feel it. To me, these moments represent my hazy flashes of realization in the midst of some drug induced stupor, and hearing a sonic representation of these ephemeral occurrences puts me in a thoughtful, open-minded place. I’m sure different people will have different reactions to this music, but I think this is art that forces a personal reaction in the listener if he or she listens closely. That’s why you should listen, and listen carefully to this song.
Shlohmo’s ‘Laid Out’ EP drops March 5 via Friends of Friends/Wedidit.