The latest record to come from young California producer Henry Laufer (a.k.a. Shlohmo) follows not long after a handful of EPs and one "mini-album" by the artist, which are full of many fine examples of his kind of off-kilter, bass-centric beat compositions. And yet, Bad Vibes is being touted as the producer's debut full-length. While this new LP is certainly Laufer's longest and possibly his most thought-out release to date, it sounds much more like a new phase in his short history rather than an introduction. Bad Vibes is Shlohmo's first foray into singing over his crunchy rhythms (although he offers wordless moans more often than not), and it's undoubtedly his most introspective and emotional record yet. The 13 tracks here (not including his remix of his own tune, "Places," which is featured on the vinyl release) are also his most indulgent productions, and tend to become laborious to navigate as the album plays out.
There are two main issues that hinder the potential of Bad Vibes: its length and lack of diversity. Laufer has discovered a great use for his haphazardly crafted soundscapes by transforming them into a kind of alien soul music with the use of live instrumentation, reverb-soaked vocals, and sullen, sometimes menacing themes. The best examples of this new sound are heard on the bouncy lead single "Places," the strangely upbeat "It Was Whatever," and the moving, voiceless album standout "Seriously." However, a large portion of the remaining tracks on Bad Vibes fail to shine as brightly, and mostly sound interchangeable with their counterparts. This quality gives Shlohmo's LP a flatness that isn't helped in the least by its nearly hour-long runtime.
It's almost commendable that Laufer—who is often associated with the "LA beat scene," a group of producers whose penchant for brevity is well noted—would write a record practically twice the length of those being turned out by his peers. It's a move that might typically come from a more seasoned artist, one that doesn't translate so well when fleshed out with only a few variations on a couple of good ideas. Songs like the meandering "Your Stupid Face" and the, well, lifeless "I Can't See You I'm Dead" could easily be trimmed from Bad Vibes' tracklist in support of a more economical record that might inspire the listener to give it another spin rather than await its close. Instead, Shlohmo's "debut" LP arrives slightly bloated due to its own blind ambition, and might require a few taps of the skip button for a more rewarding listen.