“My baby don’t turn around, leaves hearts scattered on the ground,” declares Christopher Taylor, aka SOHN, as he croons over guttural whirs and hums. These are the words that greet you on SOHN’s second album Rennen. From the get go the album feels more musically and lyrically personal than his debut 2014 release, Tremors, but when the scintillating electronics kick in you’re reassured that this is the same SOHN who produced that shimmering debut.
Rennen builds on the nocturnal minimalism of Tremors. The jittering rhythms and soulful melodies remain, but his second release seems more confident, more self-assured and more musically honest. When Tremors was released, SOHN garnered (somewhat accurate) comparisons to James Blake, both with their glitching sonic soundscapes, and Bon Iver, with their ambient melancholia and tight vocal harmonies. And whilst these elements of the music remain, on Rennen there are also RnB styled beats that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Justin Timberlake record (‘Proof’) and bluesy vocal lines that ooze soul (‘Hard Liquor’).
It’s unsurprising that SOHN’s sound has developed for Rennen, what with a series of personal changes (getting married, becoming a father and moving across the globe from Vienna to California), but also with his production work for other artists. Elements of the rich production that SOHN created on Kwab’s debut record Love + War in 2015, and his work with Banks on The Altar appear on Rennen, but they’re elegantly mixed with the glorious effervescent of SOHN’s electronic mastery.
The record itself runs cohesively from start to finish. Each track is succinct and focused, never running too long or overstaying their welcome. At times it can seem like SOHN has dropped the ball, like in the sluggish ‘Still Waters’, where the dark instrumentals are less poignant and more lethargic, but these troughs never last for long, with SOHN quickly regaining control.
The luminous musical landscape that SOHN has sophisticatedly created, feels far more hopeful than in Tremors, a feat given the political content of some tracks. (‘Primary’ was written during the beginning of the American elections, ‘Conrad’ features references to climate change.) “I will never drown,” SOHN tells us on album closer ‘Harbour’, before the track gallops into a chattering syncopated crescendo, ending in the sudden respite of silence. And, you believe him; SOHN doesn’t drown on Rennen, nor does he tread water, sticking within the confines of the music he’s already created. Rennen is SOHN diving into new creative depths, and triumphing.