In decades gone by, Vienna-based London artist and producer Sohn would doubtless have been an acoustic singer-songwriter.
His lyrical concerns belong firmly to that genre: reflection and regret on love gone wrong, a yearning that a lonely life should gain greater meaning and satisfaction, and a wish to only connect with the visceral maw of the everyday. Yet how much better such solipsistic concerns sound couched in sumptuous electronica than recited over six bare strings.
Like James Blake, Sohn majors in gossamer-delicate affairs of the heart, rendered over alternately serene and twitchy beats that owe as much to dubstep as they do to soul/R&B. Yet unlike Blake, his ambient reveries are never mere mood pieces: there are fully formed songs beating around these spectral pulses.
Thus The Wheel boasts a hiccupping, staccato chorus as SOHN bemoans the unbearable lightness of being: “All this fuss over nothing; inventing the wheel.” The distracted yet propulsive Artifice finds him disorientated and suffering an out-of-body experience as a love collapses around him: “Is it over, did it end while I was gone? Somebody better let me know my name…”
His productions are mesmerising, but SOHN is so much more than another anonymous studio wizard: these electronic essays ache with authentic hope, hurt and humanity. It’s a tremendous debut.