SOHN – Rennen (Album Review)

Since SOHN (Christopher Taylor) released his debut album Tremors in 2014, he has been on a two year tour, married, and had a child. By any standards, that’s a pretty action-packed three years. Yet now, just to confirm that he’s not one for taking things slowly, he’s released his second album, Rennen.

The new album is a departure from Taylor’s previous creation. The steady blues vocals that lead into the background choir heighten the opening drama between the pulsating verses in ‘Hard Liquor’ and offer a different rhythm to SOHN fans. ‘Conrad’ offers a similar burst of energy and alternative R&B tones. It’s repeated ‘I can feel it coming/ we can never go back’ is a catchy off-kilter rhythm. The return of the cow bell to electronic music is mixed with soul in ‘Falling’, alongside hi-hat pushing the track into the album’s faster paced mix. The descent of the long journey down is captured in chants of ‘falling’. It’s all a long way from the mellow atmosphere of SOHN circa 2014.

However, the remnants of Tremors can still be felt, notably in ‘Primary’. The sustained notes of the electronic organ/synth and vocals are joined by panpipe-like sounds offering a spiritual vibe. Yet still, it grows into its own creature fidgeting to dance. It’s a bizarre mix, but it works strangely well.

SOHN has created a soothing and foreboding album that plays into the fluidity and power of water whilst subtly referencing politics (have you seen his Twitter?), with ‘Primary’ even abruptly ending on ‘Can I wake up now?’ written in regards to the US primaries campaign.

This album is built on restraint, minimalism and a complexity that makes the album worthy of a full length analysis (not going to happen here). This applies to his lyrics, which aren’t long sentences or tongue-twisters but are worthy of a plunge into literary techniques to appreciate his use of rhythm, alliteration, assonance, consonance, internal rhyme and allegory.

Rennen is beautifully cohesive with its use of percussion and dips into alternative R&B. It stands as a mature development from Tremors, vocally a bit lower whilst retaining the hits of falsetto. Taylor’s voice is distinguishable and effortless. Less is more.

Rennen is out now on 4AD.

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