Christopher Taylor, aka SOHN, is back with Rennen, the follow-up to his beautiful 2014 debut Tremors. Starting where his previous album left off, the eerie mechanical hook of Hard Liquor makes for the perfect opener, eventually closing with the sound of a needle skipping on a record. Then the intro to Conrad kicks in (‘I can feel it coming / We can never go back’), and the familiar sound of his inimitable vocal reaffirms that yes, this is indeed a SOHN record.
Conrad is his response to Europe’s precarious political climate, with environmental analogies at its core: ‘As the ice is melting, merging with ocean / All our eyes are open and we’re looking out to sea’. Building on layers of synths and unconventional percussion (empty glasses, walls, floors and kitchen utensils), Taylor continues: ‘We’re lost civilians with the weight of millions / We’re pawns in war living in denial’. But despite the subject matter, the overall effect is bizarrely uplifting – it gives the impression that SOHN is perhaps a glass-half-full kind of guy. It feels hopeful.
This is probably due to positive changes in Taylor’s personal life, from falling in love to getting married and recently becoming a father. ‘Time and time again you keep the peace / Give me shelter / Let me be the man I wanted to be,’ he sings on Signal, a song rhythmically reminiscent of Massive Attack’s Teardrop.
Returning to the political themes at the heart of the album, Primary – a song written when the primary elections started in America – opens with: ‘Give me patience to wait for another day / Help me hold my tongue, keep the rage away / Nobody seems able to make a change / And I can’t believe we’re not better than this’. There's a real vulnerability to Taylor's voice, too, reminding us of his mastery of light and shade. Rennen is more thought-provoking than its predecessor, but it's still unmistakably SOHN.
Listen to: Conrad, Dead Wrong