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. The album conveys an undeniable inspiration from the night—its sounds, its vibes, the feelings that those late hours stir. Tremors is simultaneously a deep delve into darkness and a cathartic release from it. SOHN’s willingness to embrace everything gloomy and buried mark this debut as an album of self-reflection and seriousness.
However, the most immediately noticeable song here is his earliest, The Wheel. Its lyric, “I died a week ago, there’s nothing left,” projects a seemingly dark mode of thinking, but the sound of the track conveys a far more inspiring, thought-provoking mindset. The themes here are high stakes and personal, made clear not just by SOHN’s emotive vocals, but also by the expansive soundscape that accompanies it. The track lures you in immediately, generating a simultaneously angsty but empowering vibe. The tracks that follow define SOHN as a musician willing to tread darker territory that other electronic musicians often avoid. Artifice is without a doubt the most enrapturing and catchiest track on the album, with a sonically provoking verse that leads us into an unbeatable chorus, a strange combination that makes you want to dance, but also be angry at the “somebody” that SOHN is singing about. Quick-paced and aggressive, Artifice pulls listeners into a palpable, arresting, up-and-down struggle.
The tracks that surround those obvious high points shed light on SOHN’s seriousness, like Paralysed that brings in a slow piano riff; or Lights that boasts a bouncy backbeat undercut with SOHN’s ever-calming, croony vocals. Other tracks demonstrate SOHN’s cool ability to slow listeners down into an alluring contemplation. Bloodflows perfectly captures a balance between calm and minimalist production with its dramatic, lovelorn lyrics. The song is nostalgic and lamenting, with a sonic progression that seems to somehow defy this sadness. Lessons similarly communicates some sort of melancholy, serious struggle. These tunes lure us into dejected contemplation, with some more simplistic and apathetic sonic moments, whereas Ransom Notes is dreamier, as SOHN gives us quick glimpses into one of the darkest, circular hours during which he was recording the album.
Though SOHN bounced in and out of remixing and producing tracks by artists like Lana Del Rey and Rhye, Tremors makes it clear that he has plenty of his own material to work on. His reliable vocals lead us through the enjoyable confusion that the album establishes, ever cool and whole-hearted, with a genuine sense of emotional investment. We feel, throughout the album, as if we are experiencing both the heartbreak and the self-satisfaction that his songs wrestle with.