New single and album
By Kevan James
Sensual and slow-building. 'Invisible' is the first single from world-reknowned beatboxer, producer and Live Looper SK Shlomo's debut album 'Surrender', where brutal lyrics blend with beautiful electronic sounds and over 100 layers of haunting vocal harmonies inspired by his middle-eastern heritage.
"Invisible is about feeling something creeping in whilst you're looking away and quietly destroying everything you have," he said. "It's an empowering song that builds and builds and finally lets rip. It's me taking my pain and making it my power."
'Surrender' is SK Shlomo's intoxicating debut album exploring his struggle with depression and PTSD. Richly atmospheric, blending beatboxing with epic synths, samples and drawing influences from Massive Attack, James Blake and Radiohead, the album journeys through life's darkest moments and celebrates new beginnings.
I first met Shlomo in 2015, at a music festival in Essex and it was interesting to catch up with him again three years later. Born in London as Simon Shlomo Kahn, he knows how it feels to be on top of the world. For over a decade, as a genre-defying, award-winning, record-breaking beatboxer, producer and live-looper, he has set new standards for his craft. As just Shlomo, he burst in to the mainstream, collaborating with Bjork and performed with well-known artists from Damon Albarn, Lily Allen and Jarvis Cocker to Imogen Heap, Martha Wainwright and Rudimental. As the first-ever World Looping Champion, he taught his friend Ed Sheeran some tricks, was Artist-In-Residence at London's Southbank Centre for years and played the main stages at Glastonbury more times than he can remember. Shlomo won rave reviews for his autobiographical one-man shows and even had a feature film made about him.
But staying on top becomes increasingly tricky to maintain. Despite the standing ovations and the accolades, Simon felt oddly empty inside. Two years ago, he took a step back to work out what he wanted and his world seemed to crumble under his feet. "I'd always been incredibly driven," he said. "But ultimately it was at the expense of my mental health."
Now back as SK Shlomo, behind his reinvention lies a realisation - that throughout his twenties, despite composing and producing for other artists, as well as for film and commercials, he had resisted becoming the solo artist he wanted for fear of failure. Determined to change, he set himself a challenge; to write a song every day for a month. For the first five days, he delivered. Then things ground to a painful halt, triggering a mental breakdown which led to six months in therapy. Diagnosed with PTSD, he was forced to confront his past.
"Talking about a major trauma from my childhood was a huge turning point," he says. "That's when I realised what this album was about. It's called 'Surrender' because that's all the traumatised me could ever do - let go and trust. It's empowering, stopping trying to control everything around you."
Under his new moniker SK Shlomo, Simon found himself taking a 'dark pop' direction after listening to lots of Caribou, Jamie XX, Sohn, FKA Rwigs, James Blake and Massive Attack.
The album includes 'Superhuman', a gorgeous, disorientating ode to addiction that describes the musician's darkest moments, and the clubby 'Stardust', a sparkling collision of chaos and calm that celebrates new beginnings. Crowdfunded, the album, self-written and produced, blends beatboxing, synths and samples with lush floods of layered vocal harmonies and was released in March 2019.
"None of my achievements in music arrived the traditional way", he said. "Appearing on Jools Holland at the start of my career was about it. I always strived to do everything differently, to create my own path. But I've realised the biggest challenge for me is to stand up on stage and simply be myself. No clever machines, no fancy techniques, no persona. This is the real me, naked so to speak. It's the scariest, most exciting thing I've ever tried."
WATCH SK SHLOMO’S MONTHLY LIVE STREAM #WEARELISTENING, FEATURING GUESTS LIKE JASON MRAZ AND BILL BAILEY TALKING ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH AND CREATIVITY: HTTP://SKSHLOMO.COM/WEARELISTENING