Beauty and angst in Sohn’s fluid voice
Enter Sohn, a producer, singer and songwriter whose ballads serve the warmth of ’80s production with the polish of modern studios and an icy lashing of contemporary angst. In his work, the pretty and the stark are blended into a sinuous whole, often with tactile percussion and bass that can go from hypnotic and groovy to overwhelming. His signature sound is at once so polished and so personal that it is hard to think of any producer to have emerged in this millennium who is as fully formed and aware of the roots of his sound.
I’ve used the term ballads to describe Sohn’s songwriting because they’re rich in atmosphere and there’s a definite aspect of storytelling to them, but more like bubbles of memory than conventionally structured, romantic pop songs. They build up layers of arpeggios before fracturing into kaleidoscopic climaxes, maelstroms of rising and diminishing emotion that are as infectious as reflective. Often mournful yet rattling with intelligent, nervous energy, their emotional ambivalence only reinforces how purely they seem to make Sohn’s mind manifest; a true form of psychedelia that flows from his neuroses to billow into effervescent catharsis.
Sohn’s voice is as powerful and beautifully showcased by his production talent as this psychological grandiloquence implies. It’s not just that his voice is a gorgeous thing, it’s the way he uses the studio to build multiple takes into the song structures, playing the samples as background arpeggios, scattering murmurs and echoes around the main vocal lines and thus blurring the line between the singer and his music.
Stefan Braidwood, PopMatters.com