In some ways it is hard to believe that a 21-year-old artist and self-described “jewy lookin’ ass dude from L.A. proper” would consistently create music that invokes the silent, sagacious end of the sound spectrum, but such is the intent of Shlohmo on his full-length debut album, Bad Vibes. Although the tracks combine eloquently into one flowing composition, brevity is occasionally slighted– the crawling bpm coupled with minimal melodic accessibility demands editing. Still, the young producer pensively tunnels through Krautrock, neo-psychedlia, trip-hop, and drippy field recordings swathed in gossamer cassette tape hiss with a sensei-like cognizance of beauty that cannot be ignored.
The album begins with “Big Feelings”, a track that sounds something like Mazzy Star via an East Indian jungle full of bird sounds, rustling, and achy restlessness. This unfolds into the lighthearted enchantment of “Places“, a track previously featured on Shlohmo’s Places Digi-EP that stands out even more within the mosaic of neo-psychedelic field recordings and cribbed beats. The falsetto ad libs and simple acoustics are both palpable and sweet in their sincerity, and it is at this intersection of tenderness and pensive innocence where Shlohmo finds his natural power.
Robotic swoons and shuffling sounds join the enchanted acoustics on “Anywhere But Here”, a track whose quiet restlessness descends into the raw and eloquent track “It Was Whatever”. The song descends into shimmery melancholy as the wordless narrator introduced in “Places” seemingly feels out the unbearable lightness of being in a submerged chamber of clicks and taps. The vocals journey even further from the periphery in “Parties”, but suddenly begin orbiting the center of sound again on “Just Us”, a song that plays like a delicate, downtempo music box that carries the soft side we all mute or cast out somewhere between the training wheels and the grave.
Despite the drag in the middle of the album, tracks “Trapped in a Burning House” and “Your Stupid Face” tonally shift Bad Vibes into the acidic, mesmeric despondency of ’90s trip-hop a la Portishead as the landscape is torn asunder by stark, burning guitars. Drugged-out track “Get Out” is curiously sandwiched between the two standout tracks, causing a slight delay before the vocals distend into something otherworldly, the guitar becomes gravid, and the atmosphere descends into a Gayngs-inspired seance on “Your Stupid Face”.
Finally we encounter the return of simple acoustics and Goya-like effects on “Seriously”, a dripping reprise, field recordings from the journey replaced by the sound of a running shower, the calm end of a restless beginning. Back to reality. Closing track “Same Time” further deconstructs the entire journey into a collage of wind chimes, earthy ambiance, and subdued stringing that unfolds into a call-and-response between the faceless vocalist and the shape-shifting guitar in a mysterious, contemplative farewell.
This is an album that rises and falls, combines and deconstructs, observes and touches, inhales and exhales. It is more of an experiment, a journey into a dominant thought than a shiny, cohesive album, but it is well worth soaking up if you have the mind to dive in.[audio:http://potholesinmyblog.flywheelsites.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/Shlohmo-Places.mp3|titles=Shlohmo – Places]