“The second that Tremors came out, it was dead to me,” so stated Christopher Taylor in a recent interview with Brit-music staple DIY at the start of 2017. Taylor, more commonly known as SOHN, has morphed into a pivotal and exciting figure in electronic music in the years since his 2014 debut album. It was lauded, with critics noting that whilst it was a heavy first outing, it sated the thirst for those who craved their melancholy fix in the vein of Bon Iver, and Taylor’s own beginnings cut a similar tale.
Born and raised in South London, Taylor uprooted himself to Vienna, Austria on a quest for creative solitude. He found it, writing music through the night before leaving his studio at sunrise; it proved a perfect climb for Tremors – which his isolation in icy angst – however, the buzz that the music induced tugged him wholly away from that life. The whirlwind of the past two years had him embark on worldly travels before being gripped in the new tides of L.A living, marriage and first-time parenthood, however the perspective and distance from his project and the personal change of pace meant that his new album Rennen had to be different so as not to be dishonest and establish an introspective truth in the way that his debut did.
To name the album Rennen – or German for “running” – is at given that Taylor has quickly established a new equilibrium in his need to escape his previous identity both in and out of his life as SOHN. Rennen is the ode to his new beginning and the change is a newfound confidence. The man and artist of two years prior would not have created songs such as ‘Hard Liquor’, a murkily dark number underpinned by throbbing synths before it slides into a skittish frenzy that is only reined in by the constant calm of Taylor’s vocal. A similar though more experimental nature is channelled again in ‘Falling’; its thumping intro abating to industrial intricacies threaded into the weave to form a prickly and challenging texture before it is drenched in a cascade of humming synths at its climax.
As always, though, big pounding tracks are uncharacteristic of SOHN as he appears to revel in subtly intriguing numbers instead. Comeback single ‘Conrad’ is bluesy soul taken on a detour down the alleys of modern electronica and R’n’B, whilst ‘Signal’ is a slow burning slow jam that recalls decades past, overlaid with SOHN’s signature sonic quirks. The channelling of James Blake and The Weekend continues elsewhere, with the title track showing the dexterity of Taylor’s voice through soaring highs and contrasting, aching undertones ebbing conversationally.
Drawing back into these old hands produces some of Taylor’s best work, however there are moments where Rennen slips into a laboured listen due to such repetitiveness (there are only so many ambient whorls or emotive crooning that one can partake in, attentively after all, but the bold moments of greatness here stake Taylor at a personal best. Album closer ‘Harbour’ sees him strike a balance between these two shores; a simple build breaks into silence and a trickle of water before dunking headfirst, suddenly, into exotic climes.
It is the journey, after all, that is the important part here, for with Rennen Taylor has shaken his previous night-bound Austrian solitude for a sun-soaked life of familial joy. As an artist, he realised his primary ambitions with Tremors, and whilst it may still be frosty here, with Rennen SOHN is on a brighter path to realising more.