A study in 'Shlohmo'tion:
Los Angeles electronica artist remixes Old Cabell with limited success
The great tragedy of the evening, to quote a rather unwelcome 3 a.m. text message, was that “nobody could get up and dance.” When the 22-year-old uber-stylish Shlohmo — the stage name of Henry Laufer — loped onto the small, stuffy stage of Old Cabell Hall’s auditorium, he was faced with a crowd which was entirely seated, surely to his dismay.
Shlohmo, a Los Angeles native and apparent fan of the black-hoodie-on-black-jeans look, plays music one must groove to — or at the very least listen to while swaying from side-to-side. But firmly planted behinds didn’t stop the audience from moving. As I sat, I had the pleasure of viewing many 20-somethings nodding their heads as though hypnotized by Shlohmo’s bass-heavy, shoegaze-dipped beats. I saw the multicolored, flashing lights that accompanied Shlohmo’s set illuminate their faces. They looked happy. Some of them looked more than a little bit inebriated. I was certainly content with the scene.
Content, but not overly impressed. Shlohmo is a talented musician. Having never listened to his music, I took it upon myself to check out his SoundCloud page. His collaborative work with dreamy R&B artist Tom Krell — who moonlights as How to Dress Well — is atmospheric and compulsively listenable. His remix of LOL Boys’ “Changes” has definitely secured a spot on my ever-expanding “Makeout 2K14” playlist.
His set at Old Cabell, however, while danceable and aesthetically interesting, was predictable. This predictability was the sort of digestible, derivative electronic music that is appropriate for Saturday night dancing but fails to linger in the mind once the debauchery stops. Case in point: I spotted one audience member sleeping peacefully, with her head against her (assumed) boyfriend’s shoulder.
The high point of the evening was when Shlohmo segued into a remix of Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle.” The hooded musician affected the original’s syrupy-sweet voice and played the track at the speed of honey. What was once a cheesy pop trope became something entirely different: it was funky. It was heavy. It was sexy. I watched the anxiety of influence at work, and that was impressive. Shlohmo put 90s candy pop in dialogue with the hyper-current, hyper-technical electronic music that seems to be characterizing 2014.
Maybe Shlohmo needs time to grow. His Aguilera reinvention proved he understands the old adage: “Good artists imitate, great artists steal.” I doubt Shlohmo will be recognized as one of the great electronic artists of the decade — but then again, what do I know? — but he’s practicing the time-tested art of reworking genres. For this reason, he deserves a couple gold stars, or at least a high five.
After the show I went to a party and made a few bad choices. I danced to Gucci Mane. I went home and ate pretzels, passed out and woke up around noon. I turned on my iPhone, put my headphones in my ears, swiped over to Spotify, and almost instinctively began listening to Shlohmo’s debut EP, “Bad Vibes.” I felt wonderful. Shlohmo had a part in curing my hangover. For this, he deserves a couple more gold stars. And maybe a hug.