The last two years of Henry Laufer’s (aka Shlohmo) addictive pool of EP’s, singles, and albums have altered the landscape of instrumental, progressive hip-hop for electronic producers and listeners alike. Amongst the mounting anticipation for the release of his first collaboration, ever, with Chicago-based R&B sweet-lipped Jeremih, Shlohmo dropped his latest EP, Laid Out. True to Laufer’s style, Laid Out is intricately composed of numerous layers of instruments and beats blending together seamlessly, taking us on a sensual journey through Dali-inspired dreams.
‘Don’t Say No’ features How to Dress Well, setting up a lushly transcendent sex dream, where we are endlessly drifting across a fog covered ocean. How to Dress Well’s distorted vocals add to the mysterious fervor the singer holds for his subject. The instrumental and vocals intertwine harmoniously, accentuating the dialogue Shlohmo and How to Dress Well had in writing the song. Through this collaboration, Laufer pushes his music to new boundaries, giving us one of the most pop-focused releases he has released.
The sensual atmosphere introduced to us in ‘Don’t Say No’ is reiterated in the beginning of ‘Out of Hand.’ Here, we have a more familiar Shlohmo production - waves of rich synths, echoing drum samples, and ethereal vocals. This track is the embodiment late night drive through industrial complexes and the tedious examination of a rolodex filled with bittersweet memories.
Coming off the tail-end of winter-inspired downtempo beats, Laufer’s third track, ‘Later,’ evokes the frustrations of life and the temperament of lovers. There’s an underlying sense of malevolence and the struggle to restrain his anger. It’s a heavily emotive piece, as though Laufer himself is struggling to speak to us, yet is forcibly keeping the root of his despair from us.
‘Put It’ draws from the malice in highlighted ‘Later’ and is heavy with a dark, foreboding atmosphere. It’s a track which plays on a multitude of drum samples, even bringing in some jungle-esque vibes roughly halfway through it. ‘Put It’ has this image of being in a smoke filled party, drinks sloshing out of glasses, and people aimlessly making their way to a non-existent destination.
Laid Out closes with the minimalistic composition, ‘Without.’ It resolves the tension brought on by the previous four tracks, allowing the oceanic dream to end. We are awakened from a storm and find ourselves on unfamiliar land, slowly meandering through sand dunes, and subconsciously drowning the past. There’s a solace found while listening to ‘Without’ - the initial mood in the EP leaves us helpless and struggling for air, but through this track, a warmth drawn from solidarity and loneliness is discovered.
This EP is well-balanced in Shlohmo adding his signature sounds and stylization but accompanied with a progressive touch to his tracks. There is heavier focus put on drums than previous releases, emphasizing his understanding of the constant change and development in his sub-genre. He’s a producer capable of surprising listeners with each track he creates leaving us with an insatiable desire for more.
Words by: Rupa Jogani
You can buy Laid Out from the Friends of Friends Music bandcamp found here.