SOHN, musical identity of London-born Christopher Taylor, has put together a quasi-blues/gospel electronic album in Rennen, attempting to seduce and mystify with lashings of soulful croons and crowded percussions… and it nearly works.
Latest release Rennen has the appeal to draw you in, but the journey from the opening track onwards is neither deep nor far. The majority of the album is comprised of stripped back and minimal electronic experiments, yet its sound and approach is all too reminiscent of electronic soul artist James Blake.
Rising and falling synths drive the album and cushion the contrast between at times, distorted and harsh percussion samples and Taylor’s pop-sheen voice. Vocal samples are looped and featured across most tracks as another layer of instrumental effect. The production across the album is slick and is best experienced with a pair of decent speakers. At its best Rennen is musically refrained with a breath of honesty like single Signal, at times though the album plays lazy with tracks appearing to go nowhere and losing their grip, such as the sluggish Still Waters.
Following a predictable formula of initiating tracks with simplistic intros characterised by lonely instrumentation, several tracks on the album including Primary escalate with claustrophobic percussion entering dance territory.
Other tracks on the album such as Harbour take it back a notch, with an emphasis less so on the instrumentation and rather on Taylor’s vocals alone. Taylor’s ability to capture the listener when his music is so stripped back is captivating. Here, all corners of his voice are fully exposed with a degree of rawness.
While Taylor’s vocal ability is sound, he hits a pitfall when the instrumentation drives harder and begins to clutter. Digitally altered vocal layers added to the productions in tracks Dead Wrong, Signal, and title track Rennen, following a strong trend heard on the latest releases by Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and James Blake (have we mentioned him already?)
The album is written with semi political, melancholic, troubled and desperate lyrics like “I hope I prove myself wrong”, “waiting for a moment of peace,” and “falling,” which is repeated in a trance inducing loop. All very fitting narratives for the bluesy inspiration yet can’t save itself from coming across as inauthentic and relatively soulless.
Rennen attempts to go against the commercial grain as an experimental genre-stretching release, yet at times just can’t escape pop trappings. Perhaps Taylor needs to stretch just a little further from his contemporary peers in order to fill a space that is more unique and inspiring. Still, this album is a solid release that sounds lush and polished, never overstaying its welcome. Suitable for early morning drives.