Release Date: Apr 8, 2014
Record label: 4AD
Genre(s): Electronic, Club/Dance
After a spray of lauded solo cuts and a spate of exalted knob-twiddling gigs for artists like Kwabs and Banks, Toph Taylor – AKA SOHN – announced what the mobs were baying for: an LP of his own. The South London native, now residing in Austria’s illustrious cultural zenith, is presenting us with Tremors, one of the most anticipated records of 2014 (surprise, surprise, on 4AD), to demonstrate fully the fruits of his Viennese labours. Recorded entirely at night, as The XX famously did for their Mercury Award winning debut, Tremors aims to shatter your glass ankles and drop you to your knees in breathless reverence.
London-bred, Vienna-based producer, remixer and songwriter Sohn (aka Christopher Taylor) has worked with up-and-coming singer BANKS, indie darlings Rhye and big-time house duo Disclosure. Now, with his debut LP, he's making considerable waves of his own. On Tremors, Taylor's perfect voice (think Rhye's Mike Milosh or a silkier Justin Timberlake) floats pretty melodies over stuttering beats, soothing synth lines, bleeps, bloops and the occasional injection of moody bass.
In 1998, London producer and songwriter Leila Arab released Like Weather on Rephlex, showcasing a homemade brew of electronic music that used intimacy and a fascination with sound to intense, bewitching and occasionally caustic effect. Her friends and sister (who played violin on Archive’s gorgeous, gothic Londinium) provided vocals for songs about love and loss, interspersed with instrumental mood pieces that were often startlingly pretty. Two years later she would drop a sequel, Like Weather, that had Lucca Santucci (who would go on to sing for London legend Trevor Jackson’s Playgroup project as well as Plaid and Herbert) crooning on the storming “To Win Her Love”.
London-bred producer SOHN first emerged in 2012 with his immaculately composed track "The Wheel," a song that glided effortlessly along on clouds of vocal samples, marrying daydreamy bliss with utter exhaustion as it patiently wandered its emotional arc. Debut album Tremors offers up track after track of similarly considered and meticulous sounds, capturing lonely and frustrated feelings that are often wrapped in, and ultimately redeemed by, gorgeous electronic backdrops. "The Wheel" shows up here as a kind of loose template, with lots of the album's songs built on a minimal foundation of processed vocal samples and raw bass synth.
London born Vienna resident producer Sohn has chosen a path that is rather less strikingly accelerated than many of his contemporaries. Every piece of music Sohn has released since the obliquely beautiful debut single The Wheel in 2012 has been met with increasing amounts of praise. Since then there has been a slow build drip feed of inventive electronica with Sohn becoming equally in demand as a producer for rising UK stars Banks and Kwabs.
London-raised, Vienna-based producer SOHN is above anything else an old-school songwriter. His work - traditionally steeped in effects, eyes pointed to the future - could slot into previous decades with ease given the right treatment. Take breakthrough single ‘The Wheel’ - give it a circa-2001 R&B hook and bam, Timbaland’s on the phone.SOHN’s background reaches back to at least one fairly high-profile, band-oriented project, but this debut solo body of work is dressed up for today and today only.
Review Summary: And when the votes are made, I might make a markI'm going to try and do SOHN a favor here. For all the hype the electronic producer’s been getting over the last couple months, a fair bit of it has been prefaced by comparisons to other artists in the beats-driven R&B scene where the musician’s been wedged. And sure, some of that is fair- we need a basis upon which we can understand which fields artists are playing within, yada yada- but at the same time, I feel an obligation to give credit where it’s due.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. When your debut single starts off with the line, "I died a week ago," it's a pretty good indicator of what mood you're going for with your music. SOHN is probably most well-known, at least in 2014, for his incredible work producing tracks for the likes of Kwabs and BANKS; creating huge, lush, bubbling soundscapes that are tinged with a little bit of darkness and are absolutely perfect backgrounds for the artist to play with vocally.
Vienna-based producer SOHN keeps a shadowy profile. Since he emerged in 2012 with breakout single ‘The Wheel’, personal details about the rising 4AD signing have been kept to a minimum. Even he seems unsure of his identity on debut album ‘Tremors’. “Somebody better let me know my name,” he sings on brooding ballad ‘Artifice’ like a man lost inside his own mysterious aura.All 11 icy nocturnes here come soaked in dread, from the gently classical ‘Tempest’ to arresting piano anthem ‘Paralysed’.
If you want to indulge in your own misery on a grandiose scale then blare out SOHN's Tremors 'til you finally decide you want to be happy again. It’s an apt name for an album so concerned with ache and pain - quite literally sends one big tremor through your body as you listen. There’s no escaping the physical and emotional stress this album can put you through, a relentless depression which never lets up.
"I died a week ago/There's nothing left": So begins "The Wheel," a standout on the first full-length album from hoodie-loving Vienna-via-U.K. singer-songwriter-producer Sohn, a.k.a. Toph Taylor. Like a soulman version of OG selfie pioneer Cindy Sherman, Sohn casts his falsetto in blues-worthy scenarios – a one-man band balancing songcraft and heady post-dubstep production better than James Blake or Rhye, two inevitable comparisons.
The importance of location might be something of an overlooked subject in music discussion. Perhaps because the image of the recording studio we lay-people have is of something purely functional and technical, a blacked-out bunker where artists are sequestered away from the distractions of the outside world. And yet it's interesting to note (or at least, this particular musical trainspotter finds it interesting) that, despite the dire financial situation the music industry is apparently in, acts are still sent half way round the world to lock themselves up in bunkers in slightly sunnier and more exotic climes.
During the recording of Tremors, producer-cum-singer Sohn, real name Christopher Taylor, would walk home from the studio basking in the frosty-aired sunrise. Indeed, a certain pastoral iciness is entrenched in his debut album's pristine production and serene soundscapes. Where Tremors struggles slightly, however, is in its narrative. It is sodden with sincerity to the point of melodrama as he laments his unrequited love with the fervent conviction of a stage-school student ("Nobody can leave me lying by the side of the road like you can" he quivers on Paralysed).
The Vienna-based, London-born producer SOHN is one of the more high profile examples of new artists whose vocabulary of R&B was formed almost entirely during the few months between the release of James Blake and House of Balloons—Blake’s vocal abstractions and hiccuping rhythms, the inelegantly wasted atmosphere of the Weeknd, with just enough outside that frame to foster a “nature vs. nurture” argument: Bon Iver’s subtle tweaking of Auto-tune, the monastic purity of How to Dress Well, and the vague appreciation of Sade. Just about the only thing sourced from more than five years ago is the occasional Timbaland beat as heard from the PBR&B O.G., Junior Boys’ Last Exit.
Sohn Tremors (4AD) Interminable frustration has never sounded so beautiful, and yet so isolated. Directly empowered by the likes of James Blake, Thom Yorke, and his own work with contemporaries Banks and Rhye, the self-produced Tremors lands Sohn near the top of today's variant of blue-eyed soul. There's no trickery in "Artifice," a poppy tune updating an Eighties Steve Winwood, with its big chorus and layered, processed percussion.
Vienna-based DJ, singer and producer SOHN has been bubbling beneath the electronic music scene since he released his first single, The Wheel, in 2012. SOHN is among the circle of DJ-producers that has emerged of late, like The Weeknd or James Blake, who stand out because of their smooth, striking vocals paired with their unbeatable production talent. Tremors, SOHN’s debut album, is proof of his similar array of talents, from the minimalistic and effective production, to his dreamy, cool vocals.
There’s nothing as solitary as a man and his electronics in the music of Sohn, an English songwriter and producer now based in Vienna. “My love don’t love me,” he croons, bluntly and plaintively, in “Bloodflows,” a single from his debut album, “Tremors.” That song links the album to the style Sohn delineated on a 2012 EP, “The Wheel,” and as a producer and remixer of electronic dirges for singers like Banks, Rhye and Lana Del Rey. It’s a slow-motion world, where a doleful voice floats above sustained minor chords and, often, little else.