Los Angeles – The latest full length release from Shlohmo, Dark Red, is a fitting showcase for an artist whose personal life has traversed a cryptically challenging time over the past year. The man behind Shlohmo, Henry Laufner, spends the vast majority of Dark Red’s runtime barraging through a landscape of dissonance, dreariness and despair. This is a pretty drastic departure from the pop-leaning tracks that characterized Shlohmo’s earlier outputs. Released this week on True Panther and Wedidit (the latter of which he is a co-founder), Dark Red is Laufner’s second album under the Shlohmo moniker.
While there were hints of this dark turn that crept into the sound on Laufner’s most recent solo EP, Laid Out, there was nothing that pointed towards such a stark change in mood. The tracks trudge along to the rhythm that is set by haunting beats, sounding as if they are escaping from bowels of a long-abandoned haunted house. Dark Red incorporates elements of genres as far-reaching as traditional electronic music, goth-inspired 90’s IDM and even strains of black metal.
“I wanted the sound of the thing to be devastating and violent,” Laufner explained. “Recordings that force you to feel something even if that something isn’t good. I’m proud to have made something polarizing, a record that’s strong and undeniable even in its moments of pure anxiety and confusion. It’s tragic and painful at times, but that’s all part of it and I want that to be heard and felt.”
This dark and ominous tone is set early with the one-two-three punch of “Ten Days of Falling,” “Meet UR Maker,” and the squalling seven-minute epic “Buried.” The song slowly builds out of the depths of the abyss, growing into a monstrous electronic track with sorrowful guitar solos, distantly rattling high-hats, and finishing off with a synth line right out of a horror film.
Laufner explains in a press release, that he began work two years ago on what would become Dark Red as he moved back to Los Angeles. He had recently lost several people that were close to him – he (understandably) never really elaborates on who these people are – and found himself in a very unstable mental state.
Even the man behind Shlohmo itself will probably admit that this may not be his most excellent work to date, but he would also defend it as being his most emotionally honest output. The tracks on Dark Red are not meant to be the soundtrack to your summer vacation or anthems about living it up and celebrating excess; instead these are 11 tracks that deal with the realities of life and death and reflect the fragile balance of mental health. There is something that certainly has to be admired about making an album that truly speaks to one’s state of mind, whether that is positive or painful.
Laufner will be taking Shlohmo on the road in support of Dark Red throughout April and May. This tour in support of his second album is in fact his first ever fully live set of dates – meaning those that have seen Shlohmo in the past have even more reason to check out this fleshed-out version of the band.
Check Shlohmo ’s Facebook for details on tour dates.
Photo of Shlohmo by Haley Wollens and Kevin Amato