Compact Disc (CD), 2 x Vinyl LP
Rarely has an artist’s description of an album captured the sound of that album as perfectly as Henry Laufer’s description of The End: “[It’s] vaguely about the end of the world, but from the viewpoint of smoking on the couch during the extinction event.” Indeed, Laufer’s latest release as Shlohmo is of comforting doom, or doomed comfort. Laufer’s records have always been narcotic, isolationist, eerie gems, but here that feeling is amplified a thousand times over, with monster stoner sludge and goth rock, without ever losing the sense of insularity and wrecked dreaminess.
It’s been four years since Laufer’s last album, and he’s spent the intervening years producing songs for artists like Post Malone, Yung Lean, Lil Yachty, and Chance The Rapper. Maybe The End is his reaction against regularity and song structure; it truly sounds like music from the fringes, the sort of thing you could imagine coming from an edgy experimentalist on some micro tape label, not a successful L.A. rap/R&B producer.
Much of the album’s first half is a cunning fusion of Sabbath-y doom guitars and scampering electro/trap drum machines. But as the album goes on, its palette broadens. There are acres of shivering ambience and early Aphex Twin mania (“Panic Attack”), degraded VHS spaghetti western funk (the title track, which conjures the bizarre image of Dylan Carlson jamming with Nite Jewel), and Burial-style tick-tock rhythms (“Watching a Video”). But all of it holds together; the usual lo-fi signifiers—layers of hiss, cheap drum machines, nauseous varispeed tape—are everywhere, but it never feels naïve or slapdash. It is both vast scope and surprisingly intimate, and the powerful ambivalence between grand anxiety and a desire to care is expressed eloquently. It’s horrible and very, very beautiful, all at the same time.