Sohn's Rennen runs the gamut of emotions

Christopher Taylor.
Christopher Taylor.PHOTO: 4AD

Sometimes, things do not work out the way they should. The stars were perfectly aligned for London-born DJ-singer Christopher Taylor (right), better known as Sohn, whose hype was built up on a series of serendipitous EPs released from 2012.

The works positioned him as one of the shining lights of the nu-R&B movement working in the digital sphere and his 2014 debut album Tremors suggests a meeting of minds between James Blake and Bon Iver.

Alas, the album got shoved aside - it was too chill, too precise, too impenetrable.

Thankfully, the follow-up is ruddier and, yes, more personable. This could be due to him moving base, from Vienna to California, getting hitched and becoming a father.

    • ELECTRONICA

    • RENNEN

      Sohn

      4AD

      4/5 stars

Named after the German verb "to run", Rennen asks: Where and who are we running from or towards? It poses a personal existential question, but, significantly, it also alludes to the tumultuous geopolitical disruptions the world is witnessing today.

The song Conrad wrestles with climate change ("I can feel it coming, we can never go back"), while the title track echoes the desperation of migrants and refugees, also seen in recent stellar records by other electronic musicians, Anohni's Hopelessness, Nicolas Jaar's Sirens and Bonobo's Migration.

"The universe is trying to tell me to let go/I'm sorry 'bout/Sorry 'bout/ Giving up," Taylor keens over mournful ivories, ending in a lament: "My faith don't mean a thing."

The late-night dirge is followed by Falling, featuring a thumping loop, clattering beats and a sudden burst of synthesised strings towards the end as the title is repeated. It feels both vertiginous and sanguine.

He gleans the thin line between hope and apocalypse in Proof, a fascinating display of rhythmic layering, as he hints at the spectre of authoritarianism: "Yeah we believed in a system/Where the temperature fuels the fire."

Primary continues a political subtext. Aghast at the fear-mongering and mud-slinging of the American presidential election, he confesses: "Nobody seems able to make a change/And I can't believe we're not better than this."

The music, at first littered with sparse synths, then sounds more urgent as a pulsating beat rises from the abyss, and ends with a mutated cry: "Can I wake up now?"

Yeow Kai Chai

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 01, 2017, with the headline 'Running the gamut of emotions'. Print Edition | Subscribe