Shlohmo's got the Midas touch. Lemme just say it straight outta the gate. I think the guy's a musical genius. Why? If I could encapsulate that answer for you here I don't think he would've achieved genius-status to begin with! I can say, and please pardon the cliche, that it isn't the one thing that makes him such a musical powerhouse in my eyes (or, my ears for that matter). Most of his music makes me melt into my chair when I actually get a few minutes to lose myself init'. That itself is quite an accomplishment: Getting me to settle down! I just noticed, while rockin' Dark Red, that even my restless leg syndrome was moving to Shlohmos' beats, which are considerably slower than my own biorhythm. When I find an artist who creates music that soothes me like that, I tend to stick with em'. Luckily, and this is very rare: Shlohmo hasn't released an EP or LP that I haven't enjoyed. So, if you're seeking a seemingly objective review, mine might not be for you. He's one of my favorite artists, so there's my bias for all to read - don't give a shit. I'm havin' a blast rockin' his new Dark Red LP. For gear heads, the system I'm using for this session is (source files - 44.1kHz/24-bit FLAC):
MacBook Pro Retina SSD / Amarra Symphony
ALO International+ OPT Edition
SubPac S2 SoloSub
Audeze EL-8 open-back planar headphones
All wired w/ Double Helix Cables - (from USB to ALO, ALO to SubPac, SubPac to Audeze EL-8)
Gear head/jaded Brooklyn raver salad-shooting about to commence, so if you don't wanna deal just drop to the next paragraph. ;-) This is such a fantastic record for showing off how transformative, how next-level the SubPac + high-end headphones experience is. Mate the SubPac S2 with cans like Audeze, MrSpeakers, Sennheiser HD800s, Stax or others in their league, and soulful electronic music like Shlohmos' Dark Red comes to life in a way I've never experienced with headphones alone. With the S2, having that bass travel through my body like I was standing in front of Funktion One sound system stack, man, all I can say is I'm DOWN for the Outlaw party in Detroit Silent Rave-style now people! Somebody tape that shit. We could dip into an abandoned warehouse like the ol' skool' days - except this time we won't be haulin' generators and wakin' up people a mile away with the bass: All the people are gonnna hear outside that warehouse is the stomping of our feet. Ok, so that won't exactly be quiet either - but there's a shitload of stuff we could be doing with this new sonic frontier. But, I'm on a fifty-percent sound geek, fifty-percent jaded raver tangent - so I'll continue on this trip in another column, blog, whatever the fuck you wanna call it these days. To be continued elsewhere...
Back to Dark Red. Just when I thought Shlohmo might be getting a touch repetitive in his mellow-yet-twisted-enough-to-make-you-wanna-shake-yo-ass grooves (and I still dug that music) - he displays some masterful glimpses of his grasp of high-energy symphonic composition on this record. It's not gabber, or whatever they're callin' hardcore techno today. I've been accused, when it comes to dance music, of having a nineties vocabulary so please forgive me if my terminology seems dated. I'm fuckin' forty years old, whaddya gonna do right? Shlohmo's music is timeless to me. How's that? It's like a crash collision of Shackleton, Nosaj Thing, Siskiyou, and Jamie xx. He can make it hoppin', or bring it down deep with tracks like "Buried". His sense of spacial placement is spectacularly dimensional. I'm talkin' about his ability to create, and re-create 360 degree-feelin' soundstaging via stereo: Only two speakers. That's a natural talent you just can't teach. He's wicked with subtle groove progressions, and he's not merely capable of writing excitable and/or mellow rhythms - he excels at both. Dark Red showcases that. He's also gotta helluva knack for sittin' his main grooves way back in the beat, like Dizzy blowin' out, or Biggie droppin' "ugh" at the downbeat. It keeps the sound below the hips, like my buddy John says (my boy V's father - a bit older than us) "soul music is at the hips and below," "all that other crap is up here" (points to his upper chest and waves arms). Now it may be difficult to place soul music with this kinda electronic madness, but trust me: There's plenty of soul here. Shlohmo composes and produces what I often call future r&b. Some call his style trap music, others experimental, and I think he spans both genres and more. I also think the fact that he's difficult to pigeon-hole makes him a great artist. It's fits perfectly with this phrase I often tweet when I'm deep in a listening sesh and the musics got me: It's like a sonic soul salve.
That's how I feel when I listen to Dark Red, like many of his releases. Gratefully there's also this renewed interest in the up-beat, and I welcome that musical path. I occasionally drool, anticipating every new Shlohmo album. I ain't scared to admit it. His music is meditative, and his sound is wildly dynamic but not over-produced. That's a rare sonic gem. If any of this sounds like something you might feel, I highly recommend it for electronic music fans and sonic adventurists. I've found my center after many trying days and nights listening to Shlohmo's music. Does it get any better than that?