Shlohmo - Vacation [EP]
The new Shlohmo EP, Vacation, carries a deceptive title. This is not the sound of an artist taking a break, nor is does it conjure images of beaches, and sunshine, and relaxation. On his newest effort, Shlohmo is making music that sounds almost busy.
On Shlohmo's 2011 full length Bad Vibes, we were met with an expansive collection of soft, slow beats, mixed with natural, acoustic tones, and very delicate, quiet samples; the sounds of birdsong, faint string plucking and organic clicks and claps were laid over the soothing, pulsing rhythms. Vacation is, in places, in stark contrast to that, where we get three relatively lengthy tracks of stark digital noises, with densely layered drum machine patterns and fuzzy, plunging bass lines. Opening track, 'The Way U Do' drops instantly into a reverb laden beat which slowly evolves, piling on rapid fire hi-hat clicks and distorted female vocals and guitar lines. The clanging, glassy shuffle of 'Rained The Whole Night' floods the song with a sense of unease, and a feeling of urgent direction underneath the meandering, filtered samples that float on top.
This is not to say that Shlohmo's newest effort doesn't carry the same mesmerising ambience of his previous work, nor to say that it isn't a fantastic fifteen minute listen. This is music for fans of James Blake's quieter, more experimental works, like Flying Lotus on a comedown. Shlohmo has a real skill at crafting subtle, lifting melodies, and fluid, slippery beats. His music carries a real sense of DIY honesty and precision that sets it apart from the numerous bedroom beatmakers of recent months.
Vacation also brings with it some of the bugbears of Shlohmo's previous efforts. In each of the tracks, either buried subtly between the notes, or sitting plainly on top, we find the tired, repeated staple of so much sample-based hip hop and "chillwave": the pitch shifted vocal. Hearing the familiar chipmunk tones that drive the main melody of 'The Way U Do', or the rumbling, down-tuned grumbles that hide among the other tracks, is hardly going to surprise or amaze many listeners. Similarly, Shlohmo's reluctance to let go of the reverb button, used by so many of his peers in creating their beats, means that all three tracks found here, and indeed on previous efforts, are whitewashed with the same stereotypical sound.
It will be interesting to see where Shlohmo takes his inimitable brand of mutated instrumental hip hop next; if he's willing to take a few more changes in direction like this one, he might just find himself pointed towards something truly brilliant.
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