Originally starting his music career as Trouble Over Tokyo, Christopher Taylor reinvented himself as SOHN in 2012. Born in South London but setting up a home base in Austria, Taylor's first SOHN release came in late 2012 with The Wheel EP. That was enough for 4AD who signed him to a deal and released his first full length album this year. I didn't even realize until after listening to Tremors that SOHN had produced "Waiting Game", the Banks song I became obsessed with since first hearing it last year. Not surprisingly, I became obsessed with this album as Tremors holds the title as my favorite album of 2014.
Although he plays multiple instruments, SOHN's music is primarily electronic. But his voice is a true gift, soulful, yearning, the true backbone of this music. There are gorgeous melodies planted in these songs of heartbreak, letdowns, frustrations and relationships broken down. Lyrically, this is far from an upbeat album. "Nobody can slit my throat, nobody can leave me lying by the side of the road like you can," he sings in the piano led ballad "Paralyzed" for example. But it is brutally honest and heartfelt, grabbing your attention and refusing to let go.
This is one of those albums that must be experienced through headphones to get the full effect of the production skills. Vocals are distorted, slowed down and manipulated, there are glitches, scratches, loops, beats and they all create a mesmerizing atmosphere. "Tempest" starts it off with looped vocal samples serving as the opening music before soothing keyboards join in as SOHN admits, "Oh Lord, I got lost along the, lost along the way." Even more danceable tracks like "Artifice" and "Lights" still have an air of melancholy about them, although the latter does offer a glimmer of hope amongst the album's backdrop of darker subject matter.
There are plenty of stand out tracks on Tremors with "Bloodflows" the best place to start. What begins as a quiet piece with SOHN lamenting "My love don't love me," turns into a flood of beats and stabbing vocal samples in a stunning conclusion. "Lessons" is another dark gem, a reflection on a broken past and what must be done differently in the future. The song broods before ending with intense, buzzing keyboards and slowed down, altered vocals. The title cut ends things with SOHN declaring, "If you're thinking of letting me go then it's time that you do." In keeping with the theme of the album, there is no place here for a happy ending.
Tremors may not be music you put on to go to a happy place. But we all need those albums to get lost in and none did the job better for me in 2014. SOHN's Tremors is my favorite album of 2014.
Favorite tracks: "Bloodflows", "Lessons", "Tempest", "Artifice"
Tremors was released April 8, 2014 via the 4AD label.