Record Label: 4AD
SOHN’s debut LP, ‘Tremors’ was spawned from deeply intense recording sessions that took place during overnight periods of self-confessed isolation. English born producer, SOHN or Toph Taylor to his nearest and dearest decamped to Vienna in the pursuit of bringing ‘Tremors’ to life. Taking the album’s incubation period into consideration, many critics and tastemakers have remarked the record beholds a stirring nocturnal appeal, something that invokes a stillness only found in the dead of night. Crucially, where SOHN lent his production skills to up and coming starlet BANKS and her starkly orchestrated noir pop of ‘Waiting Game’, the majority of ‘Tremors’ contains a feeling of dwelling in places where the sun is on the cusp of awakening but in contrast there are periods of light against the shade. If ‘Waiting Game’ is the moment of night closer to the witching hour, SOHN’s primary outing is the brief second before the sun rises – there’s a crispness to ‘Tremors’ that sidesteps anything too brooding. The pre-sunrise aural imagery can be attributed to Taylor’s sweetly toned vocals, musically ‘Tremors’ clicks and whirs with projections of cityscapes fast asleep but the album’s lynchpin casts a juxtaposed voice against the nightfall akin to the moment as dawn is soon to break.
‘Tremors’ coined its name from those instants in our lives where we’ve been affected by past events, for better or worse, such occurrences leave their mark and these emotional earthquakes can be felt rippling long after the first tectonic burst of life changing happenings have subsided. Equally, SOHN has forged an album of conflicting flavours, there’s our protagonist’s vocals smoothly wafting over jarring, awkward electronics whilst, Taylor’s word play can hint at a contented place but by life’s twists and turns the next track can plunge ‘Tremors’ into a bi-polar state of dismay. The former is represented in opening track ‘Tempest’, staccato vocal ticks and wafting synths buoy Taylor’s voice as SOHN reflects simply, “I got lost along the way” as if defeated before declaring “I love her/like no other” merging two disparate states of mind into the album’s first few seconds. Journey to the record’s end where you’ll find the title track and a noir rumble of downplayed beats and the intermittent surge of crunching electronics. SOHN it seems has lost his resolve and the earlier declarations of “I love her/like no other” have been replaced by “if you’re thinking of letting me go/it’s time that you do”. “Vibrations of tremors that shook long ago/tear holes in the fabric of all that we know” illustrate those aforementioned instances where throughout our fragile lives, we’ve all got scars that refuse to heal.
For anyone who’s first introduction to SOHN was ‘Waiting Game’, ‘Tremors’ will come as a surprise, the expectation of murky electronics have been superseded by sonics that are more 6am than 2am. Despite the revelation in aural personality, the London born producer/instrumentalist has a deft ear for crafting innovative and inventive moments of sound. ‘Tremors’ conveys as much an organic fleshy resolve as it does a machine driven heart, this isn’t always down to Taylor’s syrupy voice. ‘Paralysed’ jitters to the sound of oscillating electronics but in contrast a piano line invokes Radiohead’s ‘Pyramid Song’. ‘Blood Flows’ subtle pulses allow SOHN’s vocals the room to flow and breath, until the track erupts into a volley of skittering beats and chopped up vocal smatterings.
To truly support a nocturnal identity, SOHN could dilute his almost-too saccharine effected vocals, it’s understandable there’s a contemporary r ‘n’ b influence on ‘Tremors’ but there are occasional flares of where Taylor skirts too close to the ‘warbly, over exposed vocal flame’.
‘Tremors’ has to be applauded for its creativity and SOHN has positioned himself as a promising talent, be it working on his own jams or lending his musical fingerprints to fellow likeminded artists. Moving forward, stepping closer to the night and moving away from the light will give SOHN the muse he needs to fully embrace his midnight dwelling persona.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams