There’s a parallel to be drawn between the globetrotting tour schedule that followed SOHN’s breakout ‘Tremors’ in 2014, and the frantic sense of adventure that defined his debut. With effects pulling sounds in each and every direction, tightly looped samples and vocal gymnastics, it was an attention-grabbing introduction. For the most part he pulled it off.
On ‘Rennen’, he takes a step back from the intensity of life that ensued following his debut, favouring isolation when he sat down to pen its follow up. The results create a spectrum that spans from stunning to forgettable.
‘Rennen’ is altogether more stripped-down that its predecessor and SOHN seems happier occupying this more organic space. Rather than being in-your-face in its efforts to impress, the producer’s honed craftsmanship succeeds to produce some of his most muscular work to date,. The expressive ‘Harbour’ demonstrates that his invention hasn’t dimmed nor have his horizons shrunk, with ‘Primary’ working its magic to the same effect. Written during the US election primaries, the latter also shows a more outward-looking songwriter to the one we encountered in 2014, one who scratches at the surface of social, environmental and political challenges.
SOHN is still walking a tightrope between being a producer and a vocalist, and it’s a balance he strikes with sureness. His more refined approach gives each element the room to express itself in its own right, with the bleak yet intriguing title track allowing an increasingly assured vocal the spotlight to demonstrate its worth. Yet for its numerous dazzling moments, ‘Rennen’ suffers from passages that lack such vitality or poignancy; the arc of ‘Conrad’ feeling somewhat predictable, the development of ‘Falling’ altogether laboured.
The refocusing of his songwriting has led to undoubted growth in SOHN’s work, but that stunted sense of adventure leaves moments that fall between the cracks. It’s in these moments that it all feels somewhat familiar, and it’s hardly surprising for an artist of his style in this post-James Blake environment. Such a reference is well worn, but it’s the challenge that SOHN faces as he strives for the innovative over the indistinguishable.