SOHN is perhaps the most lowkey monster in pop today. His music is electronic glory fringed with ambient and dreamy textures. His new album Rennen is no different, though it delivers a more chilled experience than may be necessary.
Rennen is SOHN's sophomore effort, following the critically acclaimed Tremors released in 2014. The title references the new pace his life has taken following his career taking off, "rennen" meaning "run" in German. Rennen comes to a pretty active start, with 'Hard Liquor' bringing the album to a dark, bluesy start. The plethora of voices harmonizing with each other as the song slowly pounds along makes it a pretty catchy start to the record. The rest of the tracks have a more poppier vibe, 'Conrad' immediately starting with a warning of "I can feel it coming / We can never go back" introducing the song as synths build up. The choruses sound sweet with the chord progressions moving warmly under the vocals, the synths slowly washing up on you.
Rennen doesn't leave quite the lasting impression that Tremors did, though. Something feels distinctly absent from this record that made his debut so effective. There's a lack of the dreamy, cavernous synths that would dance high above pulsing vocals, a lack of spacial awareness, a lack of crystalline melodies leading under constantly evolving instrumentals... In a lot of ways, Rennen feels more like a debut that shows potential rather than a follow up to a phenomenal first record. It's almost like SOHN took too strong of a Bon Iver influence with the emphasis on vocoders and bare synths that occasionally build to something more.
That being said, there are quite a few strong tracks on Rennen that prove SOHN is still on his game. Title track 'Rennen' is a distinct change for him, the piano ballad darkly moving along as SOHN croons sadly above the optimistic chords. The song's powerful lyrics really give the song the old, dreamy vibe that was present on Tremors in a new light - the natural progression of his sound. The beautiful vocals slowly gain harmonies as synths and strings join in. 'Falling' also proves to be a big moment for SOHN, especially in the ending where the song explodes into a thousand voices emanating above a big synth and powerful percussion. 'Proof' brings things down and makes things turn dark and sensual above a haunting instrumental and sweet melody.
In many ways, SOHN's new album Rennen feels like a starting point rather than a progression. In others, though, it shines brightly and optimistically of a career that's meant to shine. It doesn't quite live up to its predecessor, but in its strongest moments, it shows the foundations are there for something perfect to be born.
Favorite Tracks: Rennen, Proof, Falling
Least Favorite Track: Dead Wrong
Rating: 74 / 100
Buy or listen to Rennen here: