While the production quality and ambition is high throughout ‘Rennen’, Christopher Taylor fails to showcase anything particularly interesting that we have not heard elsewhere, and done better.
Christopher Taylor, working under the artistic alias of SOHN, managed to amass a decent following with his 2014 debut Tremors. The artist’s Auto-Tune fuelled harmonisations with himself, R&B-infused electronica grooves and off-beat, triplet percussion immediately earned him James Blake comparisons. Now, following personal trips around the world and melancholic retreats in the vein of Bon Iver, SOHN returns with Rennen (running, as translated from German). An album that is similar to its predecessor, but also sees the artist trying to expand his sonic palette, albeit with varying results.
The album opens up with ‘Hard Liquor’, a bold statement about the musical ambitions of the album, if nothing else. “My baby don’t make a sound / As long as her hard liquor is never watered down” Taylor sings in a vaguely bluesy way, with a matching groove kicking in at the 50-second mark to back it up. While not exactly the most original song, one cannot blame it for not being decently catchy. This seems to be the case for the majority of the first half of the album. In the following song and one of the pre-release singles ‘Conrad’, SOHN addresses our current political climate with well-put insights like “We’re lost civilians with the weight of millions / We’re pawns in war living in denial” against a back drop of his signature groovy electronica, making this one of the definite highlights of the record.
Sadly, the album suffers from what can only be classified as poor structuring, with all the more up-beat songs being shoved into the first half of the record, while the second half is marked by slow-paced electro-ballads, most of which, lacking the lyrical subtlety that the artist has clearly demonstrated before, are a bit of a chore to get through. ‘Falling’ for example, sounds much more like Taylor accidentally sat down on the loop button during the recording sessions than a sorrow-filled confession we can presume it was intended to be.
Before making his debut as a full-fledged artist, SOHN was mostly known as a producer, notable for working with acts such as Lana Del Rey and Rhye. His knowledge of music production nuances elevates at least the sound quality of this album above what otherwise could have sounded like someone messing around on Fruit Loops. Taylor can also be commended on obviously trying to touch on more sensitive subjects, like last year’s American election on songs like ‘Primary’, and although he lacks the poetic prowess to really say anything new or interesting about these subjects, the effort is nonetheless valiant.
Overall, SOHN seems to trip over his own feet a little on Rennen. While the production quality and ambition runs high, it fails to showcase anything particularly interesting that we have not heard elsewhere, and done better. The second half of the album especially, is forgettable to say the least. It seems like while Taylor definitely has the skill to put together decent works of art, he lacks the focus to actually make something consistently good. (5/10) (Ellie Wolf)
Listen to Rennen here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: 4AD, album, Christopher Taylor, Ellie Wolf, Rennen, review, SOHN
Currently studying Mathematics and Music at Leeds University. Generally a fan of all things musical, cultural, and pretentious. Values aesthetic way too much.
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