Henry Laufer, better known as Shlohmo, has been a mainstay of the Los Angeles beatmaking scene since co-founding the WeDidIt collective in 2008 along with like-minded artists such as D33J, RL Grime, Ryan Hemsworth, and Groundislava. His early releases, mostly on the Los Angeles-based label Friends of Friends, established his abstract hip-hop sound, but his proper debut full-length, 2011's Bad Vibes, signaled a shift toward darkness, with song titles such as "I Can't See You, I'm Dead" and "Trapped in a Burning House." Dark Red, Shlohmo's first album for True Panther Sounds, fully explores the dark themes that were already clearly present on his previous album, even going so far as to feature stark black artwork and Burzum-inspired calligraphy, almost resembling a release on Blackest Ever Black or Hospital Productions. The song titles (including "Slow Descent," "Buried," and "Remains") similarly evoke death, despair, and bleakness. As gloomy as this album seems, it's very creative in its usage of dark sounds and imagery, and doesn't come off nearly as depressing as it might initially seem. Upon the album's release, Shlohmo established a touring group consisting of fellow WeDidIt crew members, and the album has much more of a live band feel than his previous works, resembling dark, cinematic post-rock. The distorted guitars tip toward doom metal, but aren't overbearing enough to drown out the beats or synth melodies. On several tracks, Shlohmo impressively plays with slow/fast dynamics, burying frantic jungle breaks underneath the dark atmospherics of "Meet Ur Maker" and "Ditch," and bringing them front and center in "Fading." Eerie voices abound, reminiscent of Tri Angle artists such as Holy Other and Forest Swords, and the sounds of broken glass are utilized as percussive elements in "Relentless" and "Remains," lending to more of a spooky fun house feel than anything genuinely terrifying. On album-closer "Beams," Shlohmo goes for widescreen emotion, combining trap percussion and choppy drum'n'bass breakbeats with chiming victory-lap melodies, creating something that sounds nothing short of triumphant. The resulting album successfully fleshes out Shlohmo's previous sound into his most accomplished work so far, and ultimately manages to find hope in darkness.
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AllMusic Review by Paul Simpson