When Shlohmo aka Henry Laufer appeared on the burgeoning LA beat scene last year with his hit and miss debut Shlomoshun Deluxe, it was easy to dismiss him as just another Californian kid making weird off-kilter beats. However, his prolific work rate has paid off and his recent accomplishments have set him apart from many of his post-Dilla peers, in particular the Places EP – a splendidly mellow affair – and his sublime remixes of Burial, Drake and Kelis.
Bad Vibes, released on the fashionable Friends Of Friends label of which Shlohmo has become a prominent feature, is from the same recording sessions of Places and contains that title track along with an additional remix. His use of acoustic instrumentation has been conducive in establishing his unique style. On Bad Vibes Laufer explores the possibilities that guitars and glitchy beats offer. ‘It Was Whatever’ is a perfect example of how effortlessly Laufer blends processed vocals, acoustic guitar, echoy bleeps, deep beats and live recording into one coherent and satisfying jam. It’s the kind of heady, narcotic instrumental hip hop that could be found in Lone’s music before he went all ravey, or more recently on Clams Casino’s Rainforest EP. Shlohmo balances the organic and synthetic elements in a way that gives the album an atmosphere that is neither too computerised or too acoustic, resulting in something that connects the dots between Flying Lotus and Animal Collective.
Despite the name there’s very little darkness on Bad Vibes. The ominous-sounding ‘I Can’t See You, I’m Dead’ is a slow slide-guitar jam that evokes images of camp fires and mushrooms as opposed to anything morose. Most songs slouch along at a very slow speed which, combined with the ever present spooky vocals and reverb on literally everything, results in a very sleepy and hypnotic listening experience. The only negative effect of employing the same techniques over and over is that some of the songs can start to sound quite similar. The most memorable songs are those which have the guitar to the forefront like the futuristic-blues number ‘Seriously’ and ‘It Was Whatever’.
Overall Bad Vibes is a hazy and immersive album that verges on being almost too chilled out and represents the strongest collection of songs Shlohmo has released yet.