Bad Vibes is something of an opus for Shlohmo—this is not a slapped-together, looped-beat piece, the product of a week of work and a few late nights amped on Red Bull and Hot Pockets working on Logic. In fact, this album possess a natural, organic quality that makes it difficult to imagine a DAW ever touching it. That said, this is electronic music through and through, and the synthesis of evolving, restless beats to the suffocating air of desperation is a significant accomplishment on Shlohmo’s part.
Henry Laufer, aka Shlohmo, has crafted something pretty great here. While Flying Lotus may have cornered the market on experimental hip-hop with his increasingly-huge-in-stature masterpiece Cosmogramma, Shlohmo can seamlessly blend beats, bass hits, synths, vague hiss, vocal samples and various other noises into something beautiful and sad. Everything falls apart in “I Can’t See You I’m Dead,” when the stutter in the synth line is used as negative space to create a bass track—or perhaps the bass track overpowers the synth, creating a stutter. The ambiguity is intriguing; the effect is moving. It’s just as startling when on the next track, a distorted bass both destroys and enhances the oppressed feeling of the album so far. This is not a redux of FlyLo; this is more melodic and less frenzied. Shlohmo has captured a worldview within the regions of his DAW, and it is relatable in its brooding exhaustion.
Over the course of almost an hour, Bad Vibes evokes a sadness that electronic music generally avoids. From the moody laughs of “Parties” to the heartbreaking synths in “Sink,” there’s nothing brash or misguided here—Shlohmo eschews both the buoyancy and the aggressiveness in which the darker side of hip-hop/beat music loves to wallow. This isn’t chaotic—this is calibrated. This isn’t overwhelming—this is eye-level, slightly-tipsy and mostly contemplative. In between the tape hiss, the nature sounds, the subtle reverb, the sighs, it becomes clear that Bad Vibes has a soul.