Looking at Plants
Nice & Shiny
On Shlohmo’s 2019 album The End, his first LP since 2015’s Dark Red, the tempos remained sedate and the mood stayed moody, but one major change stood out: A thick coating of distorted, guitar-like synths covered everything, as though his typically austere, almost gothic instrumental hip-hop had been cannibalized by shoegaze. The LA producer's four-song Heaven Inc. EP builds on that unusual fusion of styles. The core of the opening title track sounds like a direct extension of the previous LP, with dream-pop synths arrayed over overdriven drums, but even here, he is cautiously testing new ideas: The woozy pads and glitches that bookend the track wrap its ’80s influences in elements of ’90s folktronica. Those ’90s inspirations come to the fore on the next two tracks: “Looking at Plants” drizzles watery vibraphones over a trip-hop beat, recalling the glory days of the Mo Wax label, while “Misanthrope” dips into IDM breaks and snarling acid, as though it were a long-lost Warp bootleg. “Nice & Shiny” wraps up the record with its biggest departure: An uneasy swirl of muted synths and ghostly voices, it is virtually ambient—a new look for Shlohmo, an artist best known for fusing the worlds of experimental electronic and big-budget rap. But cymbal-like white noise bubbles below, perpetually threatening to erupt—a sign that even in moments of calm, Shlohmo is looking for new ways to upend expectations.