Sohn is a singer, multi-instrumentalist and producer whose vocals are not an afterthought but intrinsic to his work. They don’t merge into a miasma of sound, they are upfront in the mix – the music as much a showcase for his voice as his voice casts an appealing light on the music. And the music is electronic soul as opposed to the sobstep of James Blake. It’s an interesting distinction, and granted there is a fine line between the two, with a similarly contemplative, crepuscular ambience conjured, but the rhythms are less twitchy, more regular than Blake’s. It’s minimalist, for sure. It might be post-dubstep, but it might also be the sound of a lapsed choirboy aching soulfully over near-ambient electronica. It makes us think of Sohn as a more tranquil Gotye.
He used to live in London but now lives in a quiet part of Vienna – his music is said to be an expression of the difference between the cities, or a reaction to the dramatic shift from hubbub to near silence. There is a lot of space in his music, as though he is languishing in the room he has finally found after years living in the cramped, confining capital. Towards the end of his time in London he experienced a lot of “dark nights” and isolation; conversely in Vienna he has had to get used to the slower pace and misses the creative inspiration that London’s noise and angry energy brings. He now travels frequently between them and you can almost hear the comfort he draws from being caught between the two in his songs.
And they are songs as much as they are analogue moodscapes. “I don’t write electronic productions without vocals but I also don’t write vocal compositions without production,” he says. Attention is paid to wan melody as well as to the minutiae of constructing a record on computers and keyboards. He sounds troubled in his songs, or at least as though he is reflecting on past chaos. On Red Lines, a slither of melancholia we want to call sadwave or slowtronica, you can hear the stirrings of tumult as he struggles with the memory of loss. Warnings opens with the muffled sound of staccato gunfire before ceding to a regular mournful beat and a lyric that paints a picture of a couple exhausted from, not sex but fighting (“It’s late … I’d like to know how you want to play this out”). For Oscillate the pace is still slow but here things get a little more clicky and glitchy as Sohn wonders, “Can we oscillate?” What is it with young men and their hi-falutin euphemisms for coitus these days? The Wheel is the debut single and you can see why. It opens with a looped near-doo wop vocal, before Sohn does what he does on every track, which is to plunge the listener ever so gently into a dramatic scenario. “I died a week ago, there’s nothing left,” he sings as his voice traces a sorrowful melody over a glistening production. Of the respondents to the track on his SoundCloud, one in particular – “Hits you in the gut” – seems to sum up the reactions of most of the listeners. Let us know yours. (Courtesy of the Guardian)