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SOHN – “Rennen” Review

Stripping back the noise

What happens when an electronic artist whom created such a vast and electric soundscape of melodies on his debut album decides his follow-up will be generally a sparse and empty affair? That’s exactly what SOHN’s “Rennen” is as when you look under the bonnet, it’s an exercise in space and atmosphere over melody and is a grower – not a shower.

“Hard Liquor” does give a nod to what’s coming in the future with simple samples of voice oomph’s as the baseline and beat before caustic metallic synths and synth choirs push the main chords in a brash and harsh style. There’s a lot of little tweaks and vocal messes going on hidden behind the main soundscape but it’s very simple and this heavy-handed approach with little to fill things out continues throughout the album.

This album focuses far more on the voice too and “Conrad” is a soulful track that really allows SOHN’s voice to shine triumphantly in a homage to 80’s overproduction of drums and synths. “Signal” plays with vocoders and processing to amplify the voice and play with it front and centre unlike other tracks but then is also quite content to just play a simple beat and bass line for extended periods of time. The entire album wants to channel soul and chill – and whilst it does – it sometimes does it in a minimalist way that initially I struggled to enjoy.

What I will say is that on repeated listens, I quickly began to find myself really getting into the tracks and riding the quiet spells as reflections on the more dramatic or freeform sections – it just certainly didn’t happen until I had given the album time to breathe – and the opening trio of tracks were my way in.

“Dead Wrong” has plenty of lovely percussion and rubbery synths to enjoy as it jams its simplistic but euphoric tune whilst title track “Rennen” is a beautiful collage of vocal layers being manipulated and twisted into a ballad that sounds part human part robot. “Proof” too is pretty awesome with a darker tone to the chords and production whereas “Harbour” manages to channel an inner Bonobo or Caribou at times with its switching of styles and mood.

However, there’s a few tracks that I haven’t quite gelled with still and it’s because they seem to be minimalistic but then don’t evolve or spent too long forming in their three-minute song format and I think if SOHN goes down this route again, I’d probably want to hear samples before buying to make sure there was more than just a beat and a bass line to a third of a track.

Whilst not up there with his debut “Tremors” for me, it’s not a bad album at all – it’s just not what I thought I was getting and lacks the melodic flair of his earlier work. However – I can absolutely see people preferring this album if they need a chilled and more soulful electronica experience. Each to their own!

Recommended Track : Signal

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