SOHN at Village Underground 17/4/14 - live review
Written for The Line of Best Fit [20/4/17]
A near-flawless performance from the Vienna/London-based electronic crooner giddies us up for Easter.
In today’s current musical climate, it’s very easy to get all the alt. RnB crooners, Scandipop queens and one-man-machines mixed up. It feels like there’s more music than ever now that people can make entire albums from the comfort of their laptops. The communication revolution of the digital age probably makes it seem like there’s more creatives putting their musical brains into gear, where formerly stories of productivity were shared down the pub after band practice. Vienna/London-based producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist SOHNhas thankfully managed to poke his head above the saturated market. Why? Because of his sheer talent, grit and distinctive electronic sound.
It’s pleasing, then, to see tonight’s gig at the Village Underground pay tribute to the rising musician with an eager crowd and ‘sold-out’ banners strewn across city walls. Bank holiday buzz shoots up into the rafters of the magnificent East London venue as moody synths ripple into the crowd and a hooded SOHN steps onstage. At first, “Ransom Notes”’ languid grooves seem like an odd opener, but then SOHN opens his mouth. The earth shatters. It’s incredible to think he’s not classically-trained; he knows his voice like he knows his soul, inhaling at perfect points, letting his vibrato quiver in timely frequency over chilly electronic pulses.
“Tremors” marks the first major shift in the set’s energy, with an explosive chorus, glitchy samples and heavy-lidded beats causing bodies to lurch to and fro. It honestly sounds like it’s been lifted straight from his album, Tremors, but concluding whether it’s a good or bad thing is superfluous when it hits you so square in the heart.
Much like SOHN’s new debut LP, there’s a dip in the middle where his slowcore electronica takes precedence. There’s a small lull in the crowd with chit-chat wriggling about, but this is arguably the best time to daydream in the intricate musical textures. Where “Tempest” leaves SOHN’s voice exposed to a beat-less three minutes - a stark electro-ballad with jittery samples and the best vocal performance of the night - “Veto” is a little forgotten once “Fool” enters with synchronised shock-bolt lighting and hard, thudding beats.
Rather skilfully, SOHN has saved a lot of his “bangers” (as one fellow friend exclaimed) for the last section of the set. “Bloodflows” does exactly what it says on the tin: blood rushing to veins as that jolting, warped synth-line drops, bolstered by an enormous chorus of “my love my love my love don’t love me” that floods the audience, fueling elation. A pleasant, following surprise is “Lights”, which in its recorded environment is an upbeat, track-to-track glue that’s only fully realised live with budding house sentiments, fluid rhythms and chirpy blips and beeps.
One of the tracks that got the London-born musician the most noticed in late 2013 was “Lessons”, and there’s no better way to summate this performance than “wow”. Its fat industrial crescendo and layered choral yearns are almost suffocating in an otherwise airy space, with every single audience member locked-in to its hammering thrill. At this point, SOHN thanks the crowd and exits the stage - that being his longest sentence of the evening thus far. We have to remember this is the kind of gig that’s all about the music, not about the artist at the centre, and quite rightly so.
With Tremors’ lead single, “Artifice”, absent from the menu, we know there’s more to come. It’s certainly worth the wait when it finally arrives: syncopated beats, fuzzy synths and bold choral gushes marking it as his poppiest cut and most immediate song live.
He chooses to end, a little strangely, on “The Wheel” - another catchy creation but perceptibly weaker than its predecessor, which drips in electronic stutters and earworm lyrics. Conseqeuntly, SOHN may not go out with “Artifice’s” bang but the bottom-heavy weight of his set hangs in memory.
Not once is there vocal faltering, not once is there poor sound, not once is any confidence lost in SOHN’s ability to put on a near-flawless performance. He’s a grafter, a perfectionist, and it pays off. An undeniable talent.