If there’s one thing agreed upon today by music critics alike, it’s that the term “artist” is bandied about all too frivolously. Used as but just one of many catch-all’s for just about any and all sonic contributions, we are gifted the likes of the ‘Hip-Hop’ artist, the ‘Pop’ artist – the “Electronic” artist. On the other hand, unsubstantiated forays into the obnoxiously pretentious are just as commonplace, with many so-called “artists” adopting popular genre’s and their motifs without any idea as to their origins or why they are even being used in the first place. But beyond such disposable monikers and throwaway pandering’s lay the oft-forgotten reason for their existence in those that truly do opt to paint upon abstract frequencies much like their painter counterparts do upon canvas. Since the beginning of the last decade, one artist that has continued to do so all the whilst maintaining such high standards of self-integrity is undoubtedly LA’s own Shlohmo.
And his latest ‘HEAVEN INC’. is absolutely nothing if not just that – self-indulgent. But from titular lead single to the playfully ponderous ‘Looking At Plants’, to the pessimism of ‘Misanthrope’ and finally angst of it’s closing sentiment ‘Nice & Shiny’ – you’d be mistaken into thinking that the man behind the machine, Henry Laufer, even cares. Marching faithfully under a non-conformist banner against such tides of those adverse would be enough to make even the most self-assured artists defect to the comfort of compositions more celebrated, but braced by the unyieldingness of HEAVEN INC., Shlohmo shows the world just how thrivingly he stays the vanguard.
With the ambiguity of a foreign film and all of the accessibility, Laufer’s 2020 EP is an unapologetic theatre foregoing big picture of genre in lieu of the finer details. It’s enough to derive there’s variance from track to track, sure, but what Laufer is really trying to say is being iterated between bars, not track numbers. There is a notion punctured of almost downright commercial abstention amongst elements of ambient, witch-house, hip-hop, downtempo, trip-hop, chill-out and lo-fi – and that’s just in its opening track. Does it’s own crowdedness at times lend to a dish with too many flavours vying for control of the plate? Perhaps, but you can’t make an omelette with a palette as niche as this without breaking a few eggs.
It’s not necessarily a shortcoming of production ability either, as only one look at Shlohmo’s songwriting credits will draw notice of names the size of Post Malone, Joji and Banks. Instead, the mainstream tendency is consciously subverted here with an impressiveness an order of magnitude large enough to birth the “art” that HEAVEN INC. maybe really be. Like a Lovecraftian horror, It’s maddeningly indistinguishable yet frighteningly conscious, and much like the greatest of perspective art, wholeheartedly – if not just momentarily – undigestible in the best way possible.