What is this kind of music called anymore? Those genre boundaries that we used to carve into stone between R&B, electronica, pop, esoterica and anything else are becoming increasingly useless to me when I listen to new music. Take S O H N, for instance, Viennese by choice, London by birth and absolutely up to his eyeballs in any number of competing sound ideas that he’s somehow put together into the most beautiful, pristine whole ever. It forms part of a burgeoning body of work that is becoming England’s umpteenth takeover wave of the digitised music spectrum; even with their apparently insatiable new love for EDM, nothing the USA has put out this year comes close to the likes of Disclosure or the latest from Julio Bashmore. And they’re pumping that shit out so fast and so frequently that hopeless little bloggers like us can’t even begin to keep up. It’s wonderful and daunting, the best possible place to be in when it comes to new music. Now credit where it’s due, I didn’t discover this artist. He came to me as a recommendation from the girl whose voice you hear on this song, as she immerses herself in the music of the city that she’s currently working in. We get recommendations all the time, both from people we know, admire, follow and have never met. That’s an experience that’s becoming more natural and fluid by the day. The kind of early conversations and insight I had into Flume’s career, for instance, simply would not have happened when I started writing about music as a teenager. Lines were drawn, artist and fan separated, interaction facilitated by a third party. Not any more
S O H N’s new single, picked up by the increasingly ‘on it’ team over at Noisey, is strangely soothing in a way I couldn’t quite figure out until it hit me; there really isn’t an obvious pulse until the end. It’s in six, obviously, but you don’t really feel like it is; the meter set out by those really cool phased, stuttering vocals than come from the man himself wrapped around an arbitrary swing figure. By using them as both his front and back end, S O H N blurs the lines between melody and harmony, and pushes through this wonderful lightness that threatens to float away until the click-clacking of sticks on rims brings it back down to Earth. There’s elements of guys like Jamie Woon and James Blake in there, but it’s still refreshingly different, ending up sounding more like Jai Paul as the protagonist struggles against his own output.
What’s really cool about S O H N is that although he’s got an army of ProTools and the like at his disposal, he deliberately leaves room for authenticity in pockets of his work. That’s what you hear when his voice breaks at the highest peak of his melodic arc in both the verse and the chorus (‘All this fuss over noth-ing/Reinventing the wh-eel’), rough and scratchy and perfectly contrasted to that smoothed out, uber-polished version of his tone you hear forming the chords beneath it. It’s a very simple but often overlooked way of bringing the human out of the microchips, this refusal to homogenise and tweak. That breaking also brings home a real sense of white boy soul that’s otherwise missing from the slick productions coming out of the UK en masse at the moment. When S O H N cracks, he wants it to be like when Elliot Smith cracks, not when the CD skips. The rest of his work has a similar aesthetic, and he’s a great new talent who will undoubtedly do very exciting things. The best thing I’ve heard in a while that side of the Kartnerstrasse.