Finding a middle ground between his music’s distinctive yet dichotomous alien experimentation and restorative tones, Los Angeles-based producer Henry Laufer, who goes by the stage name Shlohmo, performed an hourlong set of steady lo-fi instrumentation at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco on Wednesday night. The producer and co-founder of label Wedidit, an online collective of electronic artists, would sip on a beer, dance along to his own tracks and grin at every sight of a satisfied audience between live looping — a surprising stage presence for someone shrouded in constant fog, a black cap and a baggy hoodie.
Before beginning the set, Shlohmo welcomed his audience with a friendly “What’s up, motherfuckers?” and proclaimed his love for San Francisco. To begin the set, the producer introduced a tune of pulsing, low-frequency audio and an unfamiliar psychedelic arpeggio before introducing an addictive bass that propelled the entirety of his performance. This, along with a catchy, dance-inducing beat, stood as a baseline for his melodies to seamlessly segue into the next, making his performance sound more like one unified body of sound rather than an orderly set list. As a producer relying uniquely on percussion and textures, Shlohmo rendered the need for dramatic bass drops unnecessary through the contagious groove he plugged into his performance.
Shlohmo adhered very little to his recorded releases, infusing only short samples of his most recognizable tracks into a larger overarching sound. Shlohmo’s distinctive shifty tones were also absent in his performance, alternatively replaced with pounding, cinematic beats and warped vocals that he would howl along with, as the only person in the venue who could make out the lyrics. As the night progressed, so did the Great American Music Hall’s use of shuddering stage lights, proliferating Shlohmo’s trippy, downtempo atmospherics and complementing his gradual infusion of more floor-buzzing, chest-reverberating bass.
Since 2009, Shlohmo has been releasing groundbreaking, experimental tracks and remixes varying from acquired-taste nighttime backyard noises to wafting, deconstructive instrumentals predominant in his second album, Bad Vibes. This eclectic range sets little to no preface for what to expect from a live performance, yet Shlohmo delivered the exact addictive instrumentation you would expect from the producer’s description of his body of work: “music through the eyes of an alien that crash landed on Earth that had discovered rap music and weed.”